Global data collation and analysis of fire practices within smallholder and subsistence-oriented livelihoods

Controlled fire use plays an important contemporary role in sustaining human cultures and livelihoods and fire-dependent ecosystems, as well as reducing wildfire risk. This post-doctoral project involves gathering and analysing information about human fire use practices worldwide by two means.

The first is a global review of literature on fire use and mitigation practices within smallholder and subsistence-oriented livelihoods. Qualitative and quantitative information collated from these studies will be used to inform our understanding of the social and environmental drivers of change in fire use, the spatiotemporal patterns of fire set for different livelihood purposes, and the governance of human fire use. The review will also highlight data gaps to direct future case study research.

The second is a survey of experts, including fire academics and practitioners, covering reasons for burning, seasonality of burning, and fire governance, for a pre-determined set of regions of the world. The survey will be used to map fire use and point to key fire uses for different regions and biomes of the world. Survey participants will also be engaged in workshops to explore the dataset.

One envisaged outcome of the work is the development of a framework and methodology to integrate local level fire knowledge and information into larger scale models of fire dynamics. The project involves working closely with other researchers in the Centre, crossing the social and natural sciences to strengthen interdisciplinary understanding of fire, its drivers, its impacts, and its social and ecological importance.


Smith, C., Perkins, O., & Mistry, J. (2022). Global decline in subsistence-oriented and smallholder fire use. Nature Sustainability, 5(6), 542-551.

Project duration: 2020-2026