Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Manage fire regimes, not fires

Globally, land- and fire-management policies have counterproductively caused cascading ecosystem changes that exacerbate, rather than mitigate, wildfires. Given rapidly changing climate and land-use conditions that amplify wildfire risk, a policy shift to adaptive management of fire regimes is urgently needed.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Relevant articles

Open Access articles citing this article.

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Fire-regime management.


  1. Cochrane, M. A. Nat. Geosci. 12, 86–87 (2019).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Bowman, D. M. J. S. et al. Nat. Rev. Earth Environ. 1, 500–515 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bird, R. B. et al. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 105, 14796–14801 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Stewart, O. C. Forgotten Fires: Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness (Univ. Oklahoma Press, 2009).

  5. Bowman, D. M. J. S. et al. J. Biogeogr. 38, 2223–2236 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Archibald, S. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B 371, 20150346 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Pyne, S. J. Fire in America (Univ. Washington Press, 1997).

  8. Andela, N. et al. Science 356, 1356–1362 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Arora, V. K. & Melton, J. R. Nat. Commun. 9, 1326 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Bowman, D. M. J. S. et al. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1, 0058 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Brown, J. K. & Arno, S. F. Western Wildlands 17, 40–46 (1991).

    Google Scholar 

  12. Smith, A. M. S., Kolden, C. A. & Bowman, D. M. J. S. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 2, 1827–1829 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Bahro, B., Barber, K. H., Sherlock, J. W. & Yasuda, D. A. in Restoring Fire-Adapted Ecosystems: Proceedings of the 2005 National Silviculture Workshop 41–54 (USDA, 2007).

  14. Finney, M. A. In Fuels Management—How to Measure Success: Conference Proceedings RMRS-P-41, 213–220 (USDA, 2006).

  15. Fischer, A. P. et al. Front. Ecol. Environ. 14, 276–284 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Finney, M. A. Fire Saf. J. 120, 103085 (2021).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mark A. Cochrane.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Peer review information Nature Geoscience thanks Paulo Fernandes and Mark Finney for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cochrane, M.A., Bowman, D.M.J.S. Manage fire regimes, not fires. Nat. Geosci. 14, 455–457 (2021).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing