The extent on anthropogenic influence on fire regimes throughout the Holocene period is currently an open question. Whereas global and regional studies tend to emphasise the primacy of climate changes on fire regimes, more localised or sub-regional studies have highlighted human influences as essential in explaining the patterns of reconstructed fire history.

The main objective of this research is to investigate the relationship between land-use change and fire regimes during the Holocene. To that end the project will make use of a variety of data sources, including charcoal datasets, other palaeoecological datasets (e.g. pollen), and archaeological radiocarbon datasets, and statistically analysing and modelling the spatiotemporal relationships between these elements. Ultimately, an improved understanding of the relationship between fire and land-use change using palaeo-data will help in our ability to predict how these important components in the earth system will change in the future.

At present, the research is focussed on exploring the relationship between sedimentary charcoal records of fire history and a  radiocarbon-based proxy of population density in Iberia during the early to mid Holocene.

This project is also supervised by Marc Vander Linden – Department of Archaeology & Anthropology, Bournemouth University

Project duration: 2020-2024

Leadership Team

In recent years wildfires have made headlines in Australia, California, continental Europe and even the UK, and satellite data are the only way to robustly track and quantify the phenomena across such large scales, something that can now be done close to real-time. Two traits of particular interest are fire intensity and combustion phase (i.e. smouldering vs. flaming), which strongly influence the amount and chemical composition of smoke and in turn controls its impact on the atmosphere and on air quality. Whilst satellite data are commonly used to identify where fires are burning, there are no proven means currently of extracting these fire characteristics, and even detecting the fires requires use of manually tuned algorithms that are time-consuming to optimise.

This project will explore the use of multi and hyper-spectral laboratory and airborne remote sensing in characterising landscape fires, and ultimately the use of such metrics to help improve and validate new information extractable from satellite observations of active fires.

This project is also co-supervised by Rob Francis, KCL.


KCL combustion chamber at Rothamsted Research. Photo: Martin Wooster.


British Antarctic Survey aeroplane, fitted with KCL remote sensing equipment. Photo: Adriana Ford, Leverhulme Wildfires 2021


Leadership Team