From 2016 to 2018, Dos Fuegos led a Darwin Initiative project in Payne’s Creek National Park, Belize: “Conserving Pine Woodland Biodiversity in Belize through Community Fire Management”.
The problem the funding from the United Kingdom was attempting to address was how to reduce the risk of severe dry season wildfires on communities and biodiversity.
While affluent societies subsidize fire suppression and large suppression forces, there is no such effort in Belize.
Like many parts of the world there is no cavalry of yellow-shirt soldiers racing to suppress fires with management teams and air resources to hemorrhage money onto a fire until rain comes along and the “heroes” slap themselves on the back for a job well done and then return home with bank accounts swollen with hazard pay and overtime compensation.
In Belize, communities must respond to fire with their own ingenuity and little outside support.
There is significant indigenous knowledge in Belize and Dos Fuegos worked with the communities to integrate local insight with quantified data and science.
Together we built a science-based foundation to consider community needs and values to address fire management issues around the villages and communities who live and depend upon the fire-prone woodlands.
In collaboration with community members and protected area managers Dos Fuegos designed the first of 14 fire effects and vegetation monitoring plots in Belize to evaluate fire management practices.
We integrated fire management objectives from both protected area managers and the communities. Protected area managers focus upon reducing the threat of severe wildfires on the ecosystems, such as the regeneration of the pine population, and wildlife such as the Endangered yellow headed parrot which depends on mature pine trees for feeding and nesting. Communities use fire to protect crops, homes and clear land for farming. They also burn to enrich grasses for the species they hunt such as white-tailed deer and peccary.
To meet these sometimes conflicting objectives, it requires on the ground data collection.
Fire effects and vegetation monitoring plots are an essential informative tool to evaluate fire management program effectiveness and implement adaptive management.
After only 3 years of data collection, results highlighted the need for changing fire management practices in PCNP to meet management objectives. Current early dry season prescribed fires do not allow for survival of the pine seedlings in the open savanna of PCNP. The data suggested fire behavior that would provide better results. PCNP staff is now working into implementing wet season prescribed burning to create fire behavior and condition that would increase the survival of the pine seedlings and reduce risk of severe dry season wildfires.
Thanks to those monitoring plots, PCNP and the communities of Southern Belize are leaders in tropical ecosystems for implementing science based and adaptive fire management.
In 2019 Dos Fuegos presented the work of our collaboration with community members and local protected area managers at three major conferences: the Natural Resources Management Conference in Belmopan, Belize, the 6th International Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference in Marseille, France and the 8th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress in Tucson, USA.
The affluent world of subsidized smoke jumpers, hot shots, air tankers and wildfire victim thinking could learn a lesson from the ingenuity of the rural communities of Belize.
One of Dos Fuegos most interesting projects this year was a collaboration with SINAC and CATIE funded by the United Nations Development Programme, in Costa Rica. Our work was to develop a plant fuel measurement system for the forest fire risk mapping system.
Click on the link above for more info on the project.
Interesting. My country, Australia, is currently aflame and there’s a raging debate about the need and lack of regular backburning. Obviously,Interesting. My country, Australia, is currently aflame and there’s a raging debate about the need and lack of regular backburning. Obviously, climate change is a significant contributor to the fires but some claim that the lack of regular burning, as was practised by Aborigines in certain parts is a major contributing factor. My understanding is that Aborigines have been here for 60-80k years and their fire practises in dryer areas (cf rainforests) may have led to certain ecotypes becoming fire dependant. Clearly, our landscape and ecosystems are many millions of years old, so not sure how well adapted the systems could have become in such a relatively short time. As always, “bloody greenies” cop a lot of flak for their opposition to regular burns.. There does seem to be a growing appreciation though for traditional methods of land management, but CC is throwing a spanner in all our works. More ...
First, plants have evolved with fire for 100’s of millions of years (Silurian epoc). The aboriginal burning simply favored the existing fireFirst, plants have evolved with fire for 100’s of millions of years (Silurian epoc). The aboriginal burning simply favored the existing fire dependent plants and trees like eucalyptus and grasses.
You can’t learn much in a classroom unless it is supported by live fire.
Sure… classroom training is required for certificate and good things can happen when trainers and trainees spend time together.
But one cannot become competent and effective from a power point presentation by a sage on a stage.
One must have shoulder to flame.
This short video from the pine savannas of Belize tells the story of a group of The Nature Conservancy fire professionals working with their colleagues from the Southern Belize Fire Working Group and Dos Fuegos Fire Management to learn fire suppression skills through live fire exercises.
Dos Fuegos Fire Management can design and facilitate a variety of field based-trainings to meet the challenges of the serious threats we face by uncontrolled fire.
A 14 day workshop was designed to achieve live fire operations so participants could experience leadership opportunities in wildland fires. Doing this workshop, participants learned to manage uncontrolled wildfires on the pine savannas of Deep...
A 14 day workshop was designed to achieve live fire operations so participants could experience leadership opportunities in wildland fires. Doing this workshop, participants learned to manage uncontrolled wildfires on the pine savannas of Deep River Forest Reserve, Belize.
Fire effects monitoring by managers and communities leads to effective research.
Many fire studies are initiated by graduate students and academic researchers. While they pursue funding to solve “management issues” and provide quantitative science to assist managers, researchers often have a short term understanding of the most important issues. Driven by the desire for another publication notch in their belts, long term needs of communities and practitioners often receive little attention after the grant cycle is over.
The pine woodlands and savannas of Payne’s Creek National Park, Belize, suffer from too frequent severe dry season fires. Those fires prevent the regeneration of the pines that are used by an array of savanna species, including the endangered yellow headed parrot.
Dos Fuegos bridges science and management by assisting managers. We develop quantitative fire effects monitoring to evaluate fire management practices. At Payne’s Creek National Park, our goal was to provide good baseline data for community based fire management decisions.
Results found that current early dry season prescribed fires do not allow for survival of the pine seedlings in the open savanna.
Our fire effects monitoring was successful at attracting capable scientists to focus upon our management questions.
Last week, the first “wet season” prescribed burn was conducted with the collaboration of researchers from the University of Florida and post burn observations look promising. With lesser intensity, pine seedlings are allowed to survive.
Plants have a variety of responses to fire. Unlike wildlife that can flee and return to enjoy the benefits of fresh growth and abundant flowering a fruiting, plants must stay in place when fire sweeps across the landscape.
To understand what happens after fire, protected area managers can benefit from monitoring fire effects.
Though researchers are important partners in learning about fire, academics often select variables and study design that differs from the operational needs of managers. Research is often short term and published in obscure journals beyond the reach of field personnel.
Dos Fuegos Fire Management has designed a simple and easy method for protected area managers to establish long-term photo points and collect useful data for decision making.
Good data with associated photo points can also help to communicate to colleagues and critics the results of any fire.
Fire Effects monitoring helps managers go beyond guessing or relying on short term studies to learn how wildlife habitat and ecosystems respond to fire.
Dos Fuegos Fire Management can train you and your field staff to collect data and observations that put science in your hands to make cost effective decisions for your specific area.
The earth is a fire planet. Most landscape burn and many ecosystems need fire to maintain biodiversity. Yet protected area managers and fire suppression advocates have mismanaged flammable vegetation and created a global nightmare under the belief they were “protecting” the environment.
Recent archeological work in Pech de l’Azé IV (Dordogne, France), a collapsed cave with an approximately three meter sequence of well preserved, primarily anthropogenic sediments that show unambiguous evidence of Neandertal use of fire. The faunal assemblage, which suggests a temperate, wooded environment, has evidence for the exploitation of some small game, and provides possible evidence for some non-subsistence related activities.
Fire is deep in our DNA and history. To be fully human is to know the transformative work of fire.
It is time to reclaim our use and understanding of fire.
In the modern world we can understand fire by using fire. If the Neandertals could do it, we can do to.
If you would like to restore your relationship with fire with science based techniques contact dosfuegos.org. We can help you with your relationship with fire.