Modern scientific research the past 60+ years has proven that both light-fire ecosystems (ecosystems that are dependent on frequent light rejuvenating fires) and catastrophic fire ecosystems (ecosystems that are dependent on infrequent catastrophic fire for rejuvenation) need fire for their survival. These ecosystems before the loss of the native fire managers by European diseases and war were managed both by nature and by the native peoples of the world as a means to their livelihood.
The global result of both man fire and natural fire before the European conquests in temperate regions were open park-like old-growth forests, savannas and grasslands. In these ecosystems the trees were far enough apart to allow sunlight to the forest floor in the old-growth, pine-dominated uplands necessary for diverse plant and animal species. In the wetter lowlands along rivers, streams and drains, hardwoods and softwoods and other less fire-tolerant species survived and flourished. Even in the lowlands fire creeped down from the uplands into the hardwoods and softwoods. In some wetland areas hot fires burned though wetland marshes dominated by hardy fire species like Cypress.
In the boreal or artic regions of the globe occasional catastrophic fire ignited by lightning or man was the creator of vast mosaics across the landscape. A patchwork mosaic type ecosystem evolved as each area reached a mature stage of development and burned. The fires then stopped where other less mature areas were not flammable enough to burn. This patchwork of new and old burns created a variety of successionary stages of plants and animals. Such animals as wolves, wolverines, bear, elk, caribou, rabbits, moose, lynx, fox, etc., moved about from one part of the patchwork to another following their food supply, be it plants or prey animals.
In the more arid regions of the globe the result of fire exclusion in light-fire ecosystems is to convert them to catastrophic fire ecosystems that devastate ecosystems as well as destroy lives and property. In this case more fire exclusion leads to more buildup of forest fuels that eventually ignite under extreme conditions burning the forest to the ground. Fire exclusion is favoring trees and plants that thrive on catastrophic crown fires.
Modern Europeans in taking over management of global ecosystems from the native land managers have through neglect, poor forestry practices, agriculture and stupid fire-exclusion policies, devastated billions of acres of fire-dependent ecosystems around the planet. The result has been to disrupt and destabilize ecosystems almost beyond recognition as to what they had been for the past tens of thousands of years.
Good sustained forestry practices like those advocated by Leon Neel in the Stoddard-Neel method can go a long way toward rebuilding these damaged ecosystems. I don't know if much can be done about agricultural practices. However even more important is to get fire back into nature's ecosystems as prescribed or controlled fire that simulates natural fire. Obviously wildfires can't be allowed to roam as they once did. This is because man's activities obstruct and fragment ecosystems. Wildfires also cause destruction of homes and other property damage.
Today we spend billions of dollars annually fighting fire exclusion-caused wildfires that only get worse as our ability to suppress them improves in a kind of catch 22. It's like running from a bear with the bear so close behind that you don't have time to climb a tree. :-) Resources are being constantly diverted from fire protection and mitigation as one wildfire emergency pops up after another year after year.
Our land management and political leaders and the public at large have to get out of denial and stop lying about what causes catastrophic fire and exit this fire-exclusion nightmare!!! It's the power-keg not the ignition source that is the real cause for the explosion. Somehow we have to find billions of dollars to control burn with prescribed fire. It's a case where a stitch in time saves nine. Eventually the billions of dollars needed for fire suppression will be saved and some of that money can be used to restore and maintain fire-dependent ecosystems on an annual or otherwise frequent basis. The question is how is this going to be done?
Right now very limited enterprises are underway in a rather fragmented disorganized manner such as the leading role that the Nature Conservancy is playing with its wildfire-mitigation strategy called Firewise. Also the government land-management agencies are training prescribed fire recruits on a continuing basis through their Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Center. What is missing is fire activism backed by solid fire ecological research and an organized scaling up of prescribed fire activity along with a powerful billion-dollar public fire-awareness campaign.
This requires the public to be informed enough to demand from lawmakers that they adequately address this issue and find the funding necessary to turn things around. Right now the public is upset about ash in their swimming pools from prescribed fire. Environmentalists are hindering thinning and prescribed fire through lawsuits. The EPA regulators and hindering prescribed fire through excessive smoke regulations because of concerns of asthma sufferers. With such an uninformed public the political action necessary cannot happen. This is why we really do need this billion-dollar public-awareness initiative to counter the decades of assault on public consciousness by Smokey the Bear US Forest Service propaganda the past 120 years.
To learn more about the importance of fire in nature, my book Fire in Nature, A Fire Activist's Guide is free on its website. If you read this important new cutting edge book you will learn more than you ever wanted to learn about the importance of fire in nature. In the Western United States and Australia the book might even save you and your home from catastrophic wildfire, as you and your neighborhood learn ways to mitigate the danger from catastrophic wildfire.