Fire plays an increasingly significant role in tropical forest and savanna ecosystems, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and impacting on biodiversity. Emerging research shows the potential role of Indigenous land-use practices for controlling deforestation and reducing CO2 emissions. Analysis of satellite imagery suggests that Indigenous lands have the lowest incidence of wildfires, significantly contributing to maintaining carbon stocks and enhancing biodiversity. Yet acknowledgement of Indigenous peoples' role in fire management and control is limited, and in many cases dismissed, especially in policy-making circles. In this paper, we review existing data on Indigenous fire management and impact, focusing on examples from tropical forest and savanna ecosystems in Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana. We highlight how the complexities of community owned solutions for fire management are being lost as well as undermined by continued efforts on fire suppression and firefighting, and emerging approaches to incorporate Indigenous fire management into market- and incentive-based mechanisms for climate change mitigation. Our aim is to build a case for supporting Indigenous fire practices within all scales of decision-making by strengthening Indigenous knowledge systems to ensure more effective and sustainable fire management.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘The interaction of fire and mankind’.
One contribution of 24 to a discussion meeting issue ‘The interaction of fire and mankind’.
- Accepted January 19, 2016.
- © 2016 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.