, Volume 44, Issue 8, pp 705–717 | Cite as

Traditional fire-use, landscape transition, and the legacies of social theory past

  • Michael R. Coughlan


Fire-use and the scale and character of its effects on landscapes remain hotly debated in the paleo- and historical-fire literature. Since the second half of the nineteenth century, anthropology and geography have played important roles in providing theoretical propositions and testable hypotheses for advancing understandings of the ecological role of human–fire-use in landscape histories. This article reviews some of the most salient and persistent theoretical propositions and hypotheses concerning the role of humans in historical fire ecology. The review discusses this history in light of current research agendas, such as those offered by pyrogeography. The review suggests that a more theoretically cognizant historical fire ecology should strive to operationalize transdisciplinary theory capable of addressing the role of human variability in the evolutionary history of landscapes. To facilitate this process, researchers should focus attention on integrating more current human ecology theory into transdisciplinary research agendas.


Traditional fire-use Anthropogenic landscape transition Human ecology Paleofire Historical ecology Pyrogeography 



This paper was developed, in part, under STAR Fellowship Assistance Agreement No. FP917243 awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It has not been formally reviewed by EPA. The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author. Partial support was also provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation through an award to the Coweeta LTER Program (DEB-0823293). The author thanks Ted Gragson, Victoria Ramenzoni, Genevieve Holdridge, and two anonymous peer reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Coweeta LTERUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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