Stop the Harmful Forms of Prescribed Burnings!
The Problem of Intentional Burning Around the World.
What is the prescribed burning?
Intentional burning is burning of natural and agricultural lands intentionally implemented by people for various purposes.
The objectives of intentional burning
The objectives of intentional burning can be divided into three main groups: (i) fighting wildfires (preventing severe wildfires in the natural areas, creating buffer zones to protect settlements from moving fire); (ii) management of natural lands (for forestry purposes, for helping to species and ecosystems which were called “adapted to fires”, for fighting invasive species, etc.); (iii) agricultural purposes (for the objectives of plant growing and animal farming). The burnings of the first and second groups are carried out inside natural territories. The burnings of the third group of goals are implemented on agricultural lands.
The listed forms of burning are massively implemented in many countries of the world with approval of the law. In some countries, all or some forms of burning are prohibited by law and not conducted. In addition to the listed types of burning, people in many countries burn natural lands, guided by irrational reasons (due to traditions, prejudices, and superstitions). Such burnings are almost everywhere prohibited by law.
In English, legitimate intentional burns are called prescribed burning or controlled burning. Below are the names of the practice of burning in some other languages:
fogo queimado, fogo prescrito, queimada controlada, queimada prescrita (Portugues)
quemadura controlada, quema controlada (Spanish)
профилактические выжигания, контролируемые палы (Russian)
The main damage caused by the burning of agricultural land is a decrease in soil fertility, destruction of “useful” soil fauna (along with the destruction of “harmful” soil fauna), and risk of wildfires. In many countries agricultural burning leads to frequent wildfires. But, in general, this class of burning leads to damage in areas that are no longer full-fledged natural ecosystems. The damage caused by such burning falls almost entirely on the owners of these lands, who lose income due to a decrease in soil fertility and are forced to pay fines for wildfires caused by burning.
The first and second groups of prescribed burns have a destructive effect on ecosystems of large natural territories, including valuable and vulnerable protected natural lands (national parks, nature reserves, wilderness areas), where any human activity should be restricted or terminated. The fight against such burning is the main goal of the “Stop the Harmful Forms of Prescribed Burnings!” campaign. The entire position of the campaign, as well as the misconceptions of the prescribed burning paradigm considered here concerned primarily with burning implemented inside natural lands.
The main mission of the “Stop the Harmful Forms of Prescribed Burning!” public campaign is to concentrate the attention of the global society on the disastrous negative consequences of the most forms of prescribed burning (which were called the harmful forms of prescribed burning in the campaign's position) for natural ecosystems, biological diversity, soils, natural waters, climate, frequency and intensity of wildfires, human health and economy, which can be definitely assumed based on the characteristics of their implementation.
Below we considered the main negative characteristics of the harmful forms of prescribed burning and their probable disastrous consequences:
The Negative Characteristic №1:
Prescribed burnings have a negative impact on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
Quite a lot of studies have been implemented, which obtained data on the significant negative impact of burning on the fauna of various natural environments (aquatic, soil, and terrestrial). A good overview of such sources with the systematization of their data was made in the open-access paper Engstrom R.T. (2010) First-order fire effects on animals: review and recommendations. However, the author of this review and, apparently, the authors of all papers to which it refers, did not recommend stopping burning forever, or at least until the threats to animals and natural ecosystems revealed by them will be sufficiently investigated and measures preventing such harm would be developed. They only recommended “considering their results” in the planning of new prescribed burnings. This obvious paradox (or crisis) of the scientific system supported the prescribed burning paradigm is described below in the subsection “The Negative Characteristic №11”.
(i).The negative impact of prescribed burnings on terrestrial ecosystems
Prescribed burnings exterminate the “fuel” of a natural terrestrial ecosystem and damage the top layer of the soil, thereby they destroy biota in several tiers of the ecosystem, which can contain more than 98% of its biodiversity and perform key functions in it.
The declared purpose of prescribed burning is to burn “fuel” inside natural territories, which is defined by apologists of prescribed burning as all plant material of the natural territory that can burn in a wildfire. The concept of “fuel” includes plant litter, dead wood (fallen trunks, dried and rotting old trees, branches), grass cover (last year's dry and green grass). It often also includes shrubs and undergrowth of “unnecessary” (i.e. unsuitable for commercial logging) tree species. All the above, which are included in the concept of “fuel”, is destroying by fire during prescribed burning operations. The upper soil layer which is not included in the concept of “fuel”, is also damaging during the burning of grass cover and plant litter.
All the listed parts (or tiers) of ecosystems that are regularly destroyed by fire during prescribed burning operations are inhabited by a huge variety of organisms. There are small and medium vertebrates (reptiles, amphibians, mammals, birds), invertebrates (insects, arachnids, arthropods, mollusks, worms, etc.), plants, fungi and bacteria. They live here or spend part of their life cycle, including the breeding period.
According to approximate estimation, the upper layer of soil, rotting dead wood, plant litter and grass layer, that is, those parts of an ecosystem that are certainly destroyed by fire during prescribed burning, can be inhabited by more than 98% of the biodiversity of this ecosystem, which performs key (irreplaceable) functions in it. All or the main part of this biota inevitably dies in the process of prescribed burning!
Plant litter and the upper layers of the soil are inhabited by complicated communities of detritophages and decomposers, organisms that engage in processing of plant litter and other dead organic matter and decomposing it into the form of simple elements absorbed by plants (such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, potassium). These organisms are necessary for any ecosystem and the biosphere as a whole, since they close the biogeochemical cycles of ecosystems, they are a key and necessary link in the biotic cycle of substances on the planet! The destructors include fungi and bacteria, terrestrial detritophages include various groups of animals, such as earthworms, insects and their larvae (for example, termites, ants, dung beetles, gravediggers, dung flies), terrestrial arthropods (for example, millipedes), crustaceans (for example, woodlice). Decaying tree trunks also occupy an important ecological niche, providing habitat and shelter for lots of animals (reptiles, amphibians, insects and other invertebrates) and returning important nutrients to the soil after undergoing decomposition.
All this complex variety of organisms, without which the normal functioning of ecosystem is impossible, is frequently destroyed by prescribed burning. It is not just organisms and their habitats that are being destroyed, the very basis of ecosystem's existence is being destroyed, the foundation of all food chains and the biotic cycle of substances is being undermined!
However, judging by the rhetoric of many apologists of prescribed burning, such as firefighters, technicians conducting burning, journalists and even scientific experts, they are not aware that someone special lives in the “fuel” (i.e. the burned parts of natural ecosystems). When they claim that prescribed burning is safe for animals, because they have time to escape from fire, they obviously mean large animals, such as bears, moose, hares, foxes, deer, adult birds. They do not realize that, in addition to these notable large animals, a huge number of small fauna live in ecosystem, which, of course, cannot escape from the fire and always die due to burning.
(ii). The negative impact of prescribed burnings on freshwater aquatic ecosystems
The Engstrom R.T.(2010) review provides data that burning and wildfires directly affect aquatic ecosystems. Mortality and injuries of aquatic animals associated with burning and wildfires can be caused by an increase in water temperature to a deadly level, a toxic effect caused by fire and chemical pollution of the environment (one of the negative consequences of large-scale burning), a change in the acidity (pH level) of water. The longer-term impact of burning on aquatic animals may be the result of erosion, changes in the quality and quantity of coarse wood debris, a decrease in vegetation on the shores of reservoirs, increased turbidity of water and siltation. These factors have direct and indirect effects on aquatic organisms (fish and macroinvertebrates) and organisms that have aquatic phases in their life history (aquatic insects and amphibians). Aquatic insects, in turn, are an important food source for many vertebrates (bats, birds, amphibians and fish) and terrestrial insects. It was revealed that smaller water bodies are more likely to be affected by fire consequences than larger water bodies, flowing water is more affected than standing water bodies, and aquatic habitats near forests are more affected by fire than aquatic habitats protected by wetlands. As an example of the possible consequences of burning or fires, Rinne (1996) found that a fire led to the destruction of several salmon populations and the reduction of macro invertebrate populations to zero one year after a fire in three upper rivers in Arizona.
The Negative Characteristic №2:
Most of the regular prescribed burns are conducted more frequently than wildfires could occur for natural reasons (by dry thunderstorms) without human influence.
If the interval between prescribed burning periodically conducted on a natural territory is much smaller than the natural interval between wildfires inherent to this area, then this is a sufficient condition for considering these burns as a destructive factor for the natural ecosystems and biodiversity of the burned territory.
Based on data from various sources it can be stated that most of the regular prescribed burning in the world (or even all such burns) are implemented much more often than wildfires could take place on a territory for natural reasons (i.e. by dry thunderstorms without human influence. This statement has the following justifications:
Firstly, the data on the essential frequency of wildfires without human participation has not been obtained for any burned region of the planet. Such data could be obtained by studying the frequency of “dry thunderstorms” (thunderstorm without rain which is the main cause of natural wildfires). Then, by building on the basis of these data a plausible model of wildfires originating from dry thunderstorms, which would also take into account the factor of seasonal precipitation (during the rainy season, when vegetation is saturated with moisture, the ignition from a dry thunderstorm may not turn into a large wildfire).
However, for decades of the existence of the prescribed burning paradigm, these scientific questions have not been raised by anyone. Based on this, it can be concluded that scientific apologists of prescribed burning have simply never been interested in the question of the natural frequency of wildfires.
Only a few scientific papers give an approximate estimation of the frequency of natural fires in the pre-anthropogenic era (i.e., when there was no influence of people on the frequency of wildfires) for some biomes, but without linking these studies with the tasks of the practice of prescribed burning and its geography. According to these studies, the natural frequency between wildfires can vary from several tens to several hundred of years.
Since the natural frequency of wildfires is an unknown parameter for all or most regions of the planet, it cannot be taken into account in determining the intervals between regular prescribed burnings. Therefore, it can be assumed that most of the regular prescribed burnings are implemented with a frequency that significantly exceeds the natural frequency of wildfires. The principle of presumption of harm to human activity works here: any human intervention in nature should be considered harmful to nature if the opposite is not proven. In this case it is not possible to prove the “opposite” (it is not possible to prove that intervals between prescribed burnings are not less than the natural intervals between wildfires), because there is no data on the natural intervals between wildfires for any burned region of the planet!
Secondly, the actual data confirm the above logical construction. From the press materials and reports on burning, from the words of burning practitioners in discussions in the facebook communities, it can be concluded that most of the regular prescribed burning in the USA, Canada, Australia, Africa, and Southern European countries are conducted with intervals from 1 to 5 years. From this, it can be concluded that most of the regular prescribed burnings in the world, or all such burnings, cause catastrophic damage to natural ecosystems and their biodiversity.
The first considered argument may already be enough for proof the statement that most of the regular prescribed burnings in the world are implemented much more often than wildfires could take place on a territory for natural reasons. The both arguments allow to conclude that most of the regular prescribed burnings in the world, or all such burnings, cause catastrophic damage to natural ecosystems and their biodiversity .
The burning practices claim that the natural frequency of wildfires has been studied and sometimes is taken into account in determining the interval between prescribed burns. However, the study of published papers on this topic showed that in each case, not the natural frequency of wildfires was studied, but the frequency of wildfires, which was several centuries ago, that is, at a time when the continents were inhabited by ancient native peoples (Indians of North America, Aborigines of Australia and Africa, etc) who intensively burned of natural lands for different objectives (hunting, agriculture, grazing and others). No doubt, these ancient burns significantly increased the frequency of wildfires in those days.
However, even this frequency between wildfires in the epoch of native ancient people is rarely taken into account in conducting of the regular prescribed burning in our days. As usual, the burning techniques determine the frequency of prescribed burning by themselves. Their criterion is based on an assessment of the amount of “fuel” accumulated in the natural area. Thus, when the key tiers of an ecosystem and their fauna, related to the term “fuel”, begin to recover, they are again destroyed by fire.
In addition to the interval, there are other negative characteristics of prescribed burns that distinguish their impact from the impact of wildfires, and which, for this reason, can turn burning into a factor destructive to terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity. These negative characteristics are described below.
The Negative Characteristic №3:
Prescribed burns are implemented on huge spaces within natural lands (not only on their boundaries), including valuable protected natural areas (national parks, nature reserves, wilderness areas), where all human activities should be minimized or forbidden.
According to the paper Price et al, 2012 in seven counties of California (USA), 75.3% of the land was burned in 29 years (1979 - 2007), i.e. approximately 2% of the natural land of each county was burned each year. Dozens of square kilometers of natural areas are burned at each session of prescribed burning (lasting from one to several days) in the national parks of the state of Florida (USA). That is, only in Florida it can be hundreds of square kilometers of burned natural areas annually.
According to the paper Chris Thomson, 2019 Alternative burn theory the hundreds of square kilometers are burned during each session in Australia. Such massive burnings are implemented by helicopters, devices for ignition from the side of a moving car, drones.
According to the paper The Effects of Toxic Incendiary Materials Used in Prescribed Burn and other materials collected by the Once a Forest ecological group (division “Health Risks of Prescribed Burns”) the massive burning from helicopters is also widely applied in the USA.
The Negative Characteristic №4:
Prescribed burning can be conducted with a continuous coating over large areas without leaving unburned spots
The unburned plots always remain in the territory during wildfires which were occurred by natural reasons (i.e. by dry thunderstorms). The unburned plots implement a key role in the flora and fauna restoration and determine a rate of pyrogenic succession of the burnt ecosystem. People often conduct prescribed burning with a continuous coating, without leaving unburned plots of sufficient area and density.
THE FIRST CONSEQUENCE
following from the negative characteristics №1- №4
The most probable consequence of the negative characteristics №1-№4 of prescribed burning is the loss of approximately 98% of the biodiversity of the regularly burned natural lands (including protected natural areas, such as nature reserves, national parks and wilderness areas), destruction of key mechanisms of functioning of theirs ecosystems and their significant degradation. It happens due to regularly destroying by fire of several important tiers of natural ecosystem (plant litter, upper soil layer, rotting dead wood, grass cover) which should contain more than 98% of ecosystem biodiversity and perform key functions in it
In particular, it can be supposed that frequent destruction by fire the detritophages and decomposers communities due to burning of plant litter, rotting dead trees and upper soil layer (the burning kill organisms themselves and destroy their habitat) lead to termination (or significant decrease in the rate) of the natural decomposition of dead organic material in the ecosystem. This, in turn, disrupts the process of soil formation and other ecosystem functions.
It can also be supposed that multiyear frequent artificial burning has led to the complete disappearance of many species of organisms from the burnt ecosystems i.e. to the loss of biodiversity on the planet. This risk is especially high for tropical and subtropical regions which are home for many endemic species with a small natural habitat.
The Negative Characteristic №5:
Prescribed burning damages the upper soil layer with fire, which causes the death of soil biota, combustion of dead organic matter and humus accumulated in the soils
Prescribed burning aimed at destroying of plant litter and grass cover, also damage by fire the upper soil layer. The burning should cause partial incineration of the dead organic matter accumulated in soils and the death of soil biota, which implements a key role in any terrestrial ecosystem. The soil biota is a necessary component in the food chains of ecosystem. It decomposes the dead organic matter of ecosystem into simple elements that are absorbed by plants and used by them for growth. It participates in the process of soil formation and significantly affects soil fertility. According to recent scientific studies, up to 100% of the soil fauna of the natural territory can die due to its prescribed (deliberate) burning (Gongalsky 2014, 2015). The small intervals between burnings and the absence of large unburned patches do not allow soil organisms to recover. Therefore, the more often prescribed burning is carried out on a natural territory and the larger space it occupies, the stronger soil of the burnt area will degrade.
Soil biota and dead organic matter implement a key role in the process of soil formation, their regular frequent destruction by fire, as can be assumed, will terminate the process of soil formation and cause significant soil degradation. In addition, burning directly destroys part of the accumulated humus, which also impoverishes the soil.
The source of dead organic matter in soils is the dead parts of plants. The intentional burning of plant litter stops the influx of dead organic matter into the soil, because the aboveground part of vegetation does not turn, gradually decomposing, into the dead organic matter of the soil, but quickly burns, returning only the mineral substances into to the soil. If the burning is carried out during the wet season of the year (which is often done for safety reasons), even these minerals are quickly washed out of the soil by rains. The dead organic matter provides porosity and friability of the soil, its moisture capacity, the ability to retain elements of mineral nutrition of plants in those forms from which they can be quickly released into the soil solution (which is especially important during the period of active grass growth). In addition, the dead organic matter largely determines the ability of the soil to resist water and wind erosion - sand and clay particles bonded with dead organic matter are more difficult to wash off with water or blown away by the wind, which means that the fertile soil layer is better preserved over time. Finally, the dead organic matter releases the elements of mineral nutrition that are present in it gradually, as it decomposes - while during the burning of this substance, the mineral elements pass into a soluble form quickly, and are partially removed by the first heavy rain (according to
Additional damage to the soils is caused by their contamination by chemicals that are used during vast prescribed burning from helicopters and ground methods. Chemical products for burning are practiced in the United States Probably they are also used in Australia (where prescribed burning is often carried out from helicopters) and some other countries.
THE SECOND CONSEQUENCE
following from the negative characteristic №5
Prescribed burning should cause significant soil degradation (that is, depletion of the soil with nutrients and elements necessary for the healthy functioning of the flora and fauna of the ecosystem) and termination the process of soil formation.
It is known that the massive (global) degradation of the soil cover is inextricably linked with climate change. With increasing degradation of the soil cover, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases, therefore, the greenhouse effect increases and climate changes on the planet worsen. Climate change (more precisely, an increase in the average air temperature and drought) in turn, further increases soil degradation.
The Negative Characteristic №6:
The large-scale prescribed burnings are often implemented using chemicals that strongly pollute the environment (soils, water, and air) thereby negatively affecting human health and natural ecosystems.
The American conservation public organizations ( write) about the strong chemical pollution of the environment of natural areas of the United States caused by large-scale prescribed burnings. The sources inform about the catastrophic impact of this pollution on natural ecosystems, soils, water, air, as well as the health of millions of people (including children and pregnant women) living near the burnt lands. Chemical contamination occurs both by chemical products intensively used for extensive prescribed burns, and by smoke generated in large volumes during prescribed burning operations. The environmentalists also assume secondary radioactive pollution of the environment caused by prescribed burning and wildfires (which are a frequent consequence of burnings) in those US states where radioactive elements were buried in forest soils, plant litter and tree trunks after conducting the surface and above-ground nuclear testing in 1951 - 1962 in Nevada state.
THE THIRD CONSEQUENCE
following from the negative characteristic №6
Pollution of soils, water and air with both huge volumes of burning products (ash, solid particles), and chemicals used for large-scale prescribed burning operations. The negative impact of this pollution on the local people's health, and another strong negative pressure on natural ecosystems of the burnt lands. Possible secondary contamination of the environment with radioactive elements.
The Negative Characteristic №7:
Prescribed burning produces huge amounts of soot and increases the carbon dioxide emissions, which aggravates the problem of global and local climate change.
Prescribed burnings and wildfires (which are a frequent consequence of burning) produce a huge amount of soot (carbon microparticles). The transfer of air mass saturated with soot to the Arctic and Antarctic regions and deposition of soot on glaciers, as well as its deposition on mountain glaciers, causes a decrease of albedo of glaciers and their melting. This effect exacerbates the global and local climate change, has a negative impact on the condition of glacier and near-glacier ecosystems. This phenomenon was studied and described for wildfires, for prescribed burning can be assumed the same effect.
The carbon dioxide emissions produced in huge volumes by prescribed burnings also aggravate the problem of climate change. Without burning, plant litter, dead wood, old grass (i.e. the “fuel” which is burned during prescribed burning operations) are decomposed by dint of detritophages and decomposers and turn into the soil without emission of carbon dioxide.
THE FOURTH CONSEQUENCE
following from the negative characteristic №7
Prescribed burnings have a significant negative impact on the local and global climate, that is, they contribute to the exacerbation of the problem of climate change on the planet. It is important to note that the prescribed burning practice is also the strongest factor that increases wildfires. Prescribed burnings cause wildfires both directly (when they accidentally get out of control) and indirectly. The burnings change vegetation on the burnt areas that make plant communities more fire-hazardous; the mass propaganda of prescribed burning motivates the local people to implement burning by themselves, which increases accidental and special arson (i.e. the reasons of wildfires). This negative characteristic is discussed in more detail below.
Therefore, the volume of the contribution of the prescribed burning practice to the strengthening of the climate change problem should be calculated not only from the contribution of the prescribed burnings themselves but also from the contribution of all wildfires that have arisen as a result of these burnings.
The Negative Characteristic №8:
Prescribed burnings may not prevent severe wildfires, and may lead to the opposite effect, to increase the frequency and area of severe wildfires!
Plenty of sources assume that prescribed burning do not prevent severe wildfires on the burnt lands, and may have exactly the opposite effect. They can lead to increase the frequency and area of severe wildfires! This may occur due to the influence of direct and indirect factors, considered below.
The direct factors of the influence of prescribed burnings on the increase of severe wildfires are the following:
The regular prescribed burning leads to frequent destruction of the fauna of detritophages and destructors communities living in soil, plant litter and dead wood. This reduces the rate of natural decomposition of dead plant organic matter in ecosystem of burnt area (or even completely terminate this process), which leads to a rapid accumulation of combustible organic material and increases the fire hazard of the regularly burned territory.
Prescribed burnings frequently cause wildfires.
The indirect factor of the influence of prescribed burnings on the increase in severe wildfires is the negative effect of widespread propaganda of prescribed burning on the behavior of the people. Propaganda of prescribed burning (in the press, television, social networks, etc.), motivates the local people to implement burning on their own and public lands, which increases the cases of turning burnings into wildfires. Such propaganda of burning can be especially harmful for children who have not yet learned to control their actions and who, playing and repeating the actions of adults, can easily start wildfires. It is important to note that the propaganda of prescribed burning for children is widespread and encouraged in the community of apologists of prescribed burning
These factors are considered with more details in the section 3.1 Misconceptions of the theory of prescribed burnings implemented for the purpose of fighting wildfires \\Misconception 1.2 (Apologists of prescribed burning claim that burning of “fuel” in a natural area will definitely save it from future strong wildfires).
The Negative Characteristic №9:
The lack of a scientifically confirmed economic justification for the effectiveness of prescribed burning as a method of prevention of wildfires.
Another fact that we noticed in connection with the Negative Characteristic № 8. There are no publications in the scientific literature that prove by scientific reliable methods (i.e. statistical analysis of long-term data) the economic feasibility of prescribed burnings as a method of wildfires prevention and the absence of economic damage from their implementation. At least, we were not able to find such publications in scientific peer-reviewed journals. Many papers on this topic that can be found contain only declared statements and arguments (that is, just the opinions of their authors), they are devoid of statistical analysis of long-term data.
It is important to note that there are no scientific publications that prove the absence of damage from prescribed burning for the environment and public health. In fact, the lack of scientific attention to these issues is one of the reasons that caused the catastrophic consequences of the prescribed burning practice (considered in the campaign’s position) for natural ecosystems, soils, biodiversity, climate and public health. Since any type of damage can be expressed in the money that must be spent on the elimination of this damage, the economic assessment of the feasibility of prescribed burning should include an assessment of all types of damage from this method. Consequently, the lack of a scientific assessment of the economic feasibility of prescribed burns allow to suggest that no type of damage from this practice has been scientifically studied and analyzed.
At the same time, a scientific study of the results of prescribed burnings implemented in California (USA) during 29 years (1979-2007), conducted by The United States Geological Survey (USGS) and published in the paper Price et al, 2012
Price et al, 2012., states that prescribed burning showed 0% efficacy in the prevention of subsequent wildfires. Also, the authors of the paper doubt the argument that the accumulation of fuel in the ecosystem due to the extinguishing of wildfires increases the probability of large wildfires in the future. In addition, the authors suggested that the effectiveness of prescribed burning to mitigate the effects of wildfires may be very low worldwide
THE FIFTH CONSEQUENCE
following from the negative characteristics №8, №9
Prescribed burning is a huge mistake not only in the aspect of the destruction of natural ecosystems, soils, biodiversity, climate and public health, but also in the economic aspect. It can be assumed that the huge funding that is invested in the prescribed burning industry does not lead to a reduction of the problem of strong wildfires, but leads exactly to the opposite, to its growth and aggravation. The growth of wildfires, in its turn, destroys the well-being of the people, undermines the national economy. It also increases the problem of global climate change, as it mentioned above.
The Negative Characteristic №10:
The absence of open summary data on the prescribed burnings implemented in the world. The lack of public scientific independent control of the burning industry.
Another negative feature of the sphere of prescribed burning is the almost complete absence of open summary data on the implemented prescribed burnings in the world (their scale, geography, frequency, methodology, executors and consequences). There is no country which actively uses the prescribed burning practice where this data was published in open access form (at least, we are not aware of such databases). Some of these data are recorded by organizations implemented burning, but currently they exist mainly in the form of heterogeneous paper and file text reports stored by executive organizations, which environmentalists and independent researchers cannot look at and comprehensively analyze.
The Negative Characteristic №11:
The intensive frequent prescribed burnings are carried out without sufficient studies of the consequences of such burns for various components of the natural environment. At the same time, in the scientific publications devoted to the identified harm that burning causes to nature, strange rhetoric is used: this harm is recognized, but it is only called a factor that should be considered in the planning of new prescribed burning.
The catastrophic negative consequences of prescribed burnings for various components of the natural environment (biodiversity, health of natural ecosystems, soils, waters, climate) considered in the position of the campaign are quite obvious and easy to assume, knowing the basic foundations of the Ecology science and the methodology of the burnings implementation. However, apparently, these issues have not been thoroughly studied. Many authors of investigations of the consequences of burning write about the lack of scientific knowledge of these issues (for example, Engstrom 2010, Gongalsky 2014 и 2015).
This means that everywhere the intensive frequent prescribed burnings are carried out without sufficient studies of their consequences for different components of the natural environment. Almost everywhere, this activity is transferred to the discretion of officials, employees of fire and technical services, who determine the areas of burning and the intervals between burning on their own.
At the same time, we noticed such a paradox (or crisis) of the scientific system working within the paradigm of prescribed burning. Scientific publications containing data on the significant damage that burning causes to various components of the natural environment, as well as informing about insufficient knowledge about issues related to the consequences of the regular burning, usually do not contain conclusions that erability for a species could be should be expected after notification of such results. They do not write that, due to the identified negative consequences of burning and lack of information, prescribed burning should be stopped at least until the implementation of sufficient studies of the identified threats and the development of effective measures to prevent them. Instead, the authors only recommend taking their results into account when planning prescribed burns (usually without detailing exactly how to take them into account), and say that these issues should be studied better.
A clear example of a publication of this kind is the paper of Engstrom R.T. 2010. First-order fire effects on animals: review and recommendations. In general, this is an excellent review that qualitatively analyzes a large volume of scientific publications about the harm that burning and wildfires cause to the fauna of various natural environments (aquatic, soil and terrestrial). The data presented in this paper probably can be used as a forceful accusatory material against the prescribed burning industry. The paper describes numerous complicated processes in natural ecosystems and shows the ambiguous reactions of animals classified as “fire-adapted species” to burning. It also describes the episodic, inaccurate, contradictory nature of knowledge about these ecosystems and the attitude of different species to fire. It becomes clear how rudely and unreasonably people invade ecosystems by burning. The author describes the numerous damage caused by burning for many groups of species and ecosystems.
But what do we see in the conclusions of the paper? The author writes that this review “does not refute the prevailing opinion that the direct impact of fire on animals (mortality or injury) is less important for the species than indirect effects affecting the habitat”. He reminds about “important exceptions” - animal species that can lose a significant part of their population during burning. He writes about these exceptions a phrase that strikes with its opportunistic nature: “Fire behavior in such situations of vulnerability for a species could be modeled, and the results used to inform fire prescriptions in order to minimize lethal fire effects”.
That is, everything is fine. It is possible to model the catastrophic damage of burning for some species and inform those people who plan and conduct prescribed burnings about it, so that they take this information into account to minimize this catastrophic damage.
It's easy to suppose what might eventually happen in practice. Such recommendations may simply not reach the technical executors of the prescribed burnings (in order to receive them, they must read all scientific papers on this topic). Or, if they receive an instruction from their boss to “take this data into account” they can do something formally and report that “all recommendations are taken into account and the negative effect is minimized”. As a result, beyond the wall of words, populations will simply die from burning, and species will disappear from ecosystems.
But how can the technical executors of the burning and officials take into account these data? Scientists declare the harm from burning for nature and recommend “consider their data”. They do not offer ways to correct the situation. There is only one way to take this information into account correctly – to stop burning. But this method, as contrary to the paradigm of prescribed burns, is not offered in the paper. What remains to be done by technical executors and officials responsible for prescribed burning, even if they read these studies? Just ignore them. Which, apparently, they most often do.
It can be supposed that these “disclaimers” in the paper Engstrom, 2010 which was made in the context of unconditional approval of the prescribed burning practice, were imposed on the author by the reviewers of the journal. The paper was given for the review to the specialists in prescribed burning, the purpose of which is unconditional approval of the practice of prescribed burns, and they did not allow a dangerous paper to be published without including such disclaimers in it.
An illustrative example of how do officials and ideologists of prescribed burning industry can “take into account” the identified harm of burning for native animal species of burned natural territories is described in the subsection of Appendix 4 “Black bears in the forests of Florida”. There are probably a lot of such cases, but it's not easy to find them. This example was described in Ed Komarek's book “Fire in Nature”, and he became aware of it from Florida bears defender Karl Ambrose.
This example is so absurd, the measures which were proposed by the ideologists of prescribed burning for the black bears are so awful and contrary to the very idea of nature conservation that all this case can be called a real environmental terrorism. But, apparently, this approach of accounting for information about the identified harm of burning for wildlife may be common in the countries with the winning paradigm of prescribed burning.
THE FIFTH CONSEQUENCE
following from the negative characteristic №10, №11.
Prescribed burning is an extremely dangerous area of human activity since it causes a whole range of catastrophic negative consequences for nature and people, considered in the position of the campaign. At the same time, the entire sphere of prescribed burning is deprived of public and scientific independent control. It almost entirely is given at the discretion of the technical personnel of the burning industry and officials, who determine the intervals between burning, their areas, and methods of conducting by their own. The opinion of scientific experts has advisory character, i.e. it exists in the texts of scientific publications, but in practice, most likely, it is almost not taken into account.
The conclusions and recommendations of the authors of investigations about the negative consequences of burning for natural components can be limited by “scientific censorship” (that is, the opinions of specialists in prescribed burning to which publications are submitted for review, who do not allow harsh conclusions and recommendations to be published). The “scientific censorship” may also block scientific researches on the negative consequences of burning (for example, do not give grants for such work, or do not involve students and postgraduates in such research topics). This means that scientific system that supports the paradigm of prescribed burns is deprived of the possibility of adequate introspection and self-control.
It can be concluded that the prescribed burning industry, without any restraining control from society and even with the encouragement of this society, is engaged in the systematic destruction of the biodiversity, natural ecosystems, soils, natural waters, environmental pollution, aggravation of the problem of climate change and the problem of landscape fires on the planet.
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