Quantifying regional, time-varying effects of cropland and pasture on vegetation fire

S. S. Rabin, B. I. Magi, E. Shevliakova, Stephen Wilson Pacala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The global extent of agriculture demands a thorough understanding of the ways it impacts the Earth system through both the modification of the physical and biological characteristics of the landscape as well as through emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols. People use fire to manage cropland and pasture in many parts of the world, impacting both the timing and amount of fire. So far, much previous research into how these land uses affect fire regimes has either focused on individual small regions or global patterns at annual or decadal scales. Moreover, because pasture is not mapped globally at high resolution, the amount of fire associated with pasture has never been quantified as it has for cropland. The work presented here resolves the effects of agriculture - including pasture - on fire on a monthly basis for regions across the world, using globally gridded data on fire activity and land use at 0.25° resolution. The first global estimate of pasture-associated fire reveals that it accounts for over 40 % of annual burned area. Cropland, generally assumed to reduce fire occurrence, is shown to enhance or suppress fire at different times of year within individual regions. These results bridge important gaps in the understanding of how agriculture and associated management practices influence vegetation fire, enabling the next generation of vegetation and Earth system models more realistically incorporate these anthropogenic effects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10817-10855
Number of pages39
JournalBiogeosciences Discussions
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 10 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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