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Fire is the most ubiquitous disturbance affecting terrestrial ecosystems, most prominent in savannas, Mediterranean woodlands, and boreal forests. It is an important component of the Earth system affecting the vegetation, the carbon cycle and the radiative forcing through fire emissions. It has the potential therefore to amplify or reduce initial climatic changes through its different feedbacks on climate. However, tackling its exact influence on climate still remains challenging as fire varied in the past both at temporal and spatial scales, responding to different climatic variability over different boundary conditions. To go beyond these issues, my main aim is at identifying and quantifying the different controls of biomass burning (fire) through time.


Figure illustrating the different feedbacks of fire on climate (designed by A-L Daniau)



Climatic conditions are the primary control of the incidence of fire, but fire is also influenced by the nature of the vegetation. Vegetation on the other hand depends itself of climate changes on timescales from interannual (vegetation productivity) to multi-millennial (vegetation dynamics and distribution). Another superimposed control on fire is natural (by lightning storms) or anthropogenic ignition. Humans have been put forward to explain both increased and reduced periods of fire through fire use intensification for ecosystem management. This can lead to an increase of fire, as well as fire suppression by fragmenting landscapes and reducing fuel load. I examine how key climatic and vegetation variables governed biomass burning in regions that are today sensitive to fire, in particular the Mediterranean region and southern Africa. I analyse microcharcoal particles preserved in long and continuous deep-sea sedimentary sequences, focusing on orbital and millennial time scales. This approach is worth to draw on changes in biomass burning directly in relation with vegetation (pollen grains) and climate at regional scale.




Figure illustrating natural controls of biomass burning (designed by A-L Daniau)


News Highlights of My Research


2023: Intervention dans l’Episode 4 « Sur les traces des anciens feux » de la Série documentaire d’Aline Pénitot « Dans les vestiges des anciens climats ». Aline Pénitot tend le micro aux paléoclimatologues. Ils font parler les glaces, les roches, les sédiments marins, les charbons... et révèlent combien le passé des climats nous renseigne sur l’ampleur des dérèglements actuels.

(intervention à 25 minutes et 33 minutes)


2023 - Daniau, Anne-Laure (2023). Melody of fires in southern Africa over the past 190,000 years. Figshare Media


2023 - Première édition des Échappées inattendues en Aquitaine (8-10 juin 2023). Mini-conférence sur la thématique climat et les risques environnementaux associés pour grand public et scolaire. Titre de la micro-conférence : Doit-on toujours s’attendre à une augmentation du risque incendie sous un climat chaud ? Cas de l’Afrique australe


2023 - Portrait – Les Dealers de Science


2018 -



2013 Contrôle à l’échelle orbitale des feux de savane herbeuse au sud de l’Afrique – INSU newsletter


2012 Research highlight in Nature Climate Change


2010 Where there's not smoke... - john hawks weblog


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Updated 10 January 2018 by A-L Daniau