Action: Thin vegetation to prevent wild fires
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- We found no studies that evaluated the effects, on peatland vegetation, of thinning vegetation to prevent wild fires.
‘We found no studies’ means that we have not yet found any studies that have directly evaluated this action during our systematic journal and report searches. Therefore we have been unable to assess whether or not the action is effective or has any harmful impacts. Please get in touch if you know of such a study for this action.
Naturally, most peatlands do not burn often. Bogs and tropical peat swamps may only burn every few centuries (Lindsay et al. 2011; Page & Hooijer 2016). Some fens may burn more often, perhaps annually in parts of North America (Middleton et al. 2006).
Frequent, intense, uncontrolled wild fires may be damaging to peatland vegetation that is not adapted to cope with them. Such fires are becoming more common as a result of peatland drainage (so the peat becomes drier), logging (which opens up the canopy and makes the forest warmer and drier) and climate change (warmer, drier, more storms with lightning) (Turetsky et al. 2014; Page & Hooijer 2016). Removing some vegetation to reduce the amount of fuel for wild fires could reduce their frequency and intensity, limiting the damage to vegetation.
Caution: In peatland fires, the peat itself can burn. Fire can spread underground, within the peat. Reducing vegetation fuel loads may not control these risks.
Key peatland types where this action may be appropriate: bogs, fens/fen meadows, tropical peat swamps.
Related actions: rewet peat to prevent wild fires; build fire breaks; methods of controlling vegetation biomass: cutting, physical removal, herbicide and prescribed burning; increase ‘on the ground’ protection, including fire fighting teams.
Lindsay R., Birnie R. & Clough J. (2011) Burning. IUCN UK Peatland Programme Briefing Note No. 8.
Middleton B., Holsten B. & van Diggelen R. (2006) Biodiversity management of fens and fen meadows by grazing, cutting and burning. Applied Vegetation Science, 9, 307–316.
Page S.E. & Hooijer A. (2016) In the line of fire: the tropical peatlands of South East Asia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371, 20150176.
Turetsky M.R., Benscoter B., Page S., Rein G., van der Werf G.R. & Watts A. (2014) Global vulnerability of peatlands to fire and carbon loss. Nature Geoscience, 8, 11–14.