In the history of
land-use in Eurasia fire has been an important element in forestry,
agriculture and pastoralism. The use of fire has contributed to shape
landscape patterns of high ecological and cultural diversity, e.g.
heathlands, open grasslands, meadows, and swidden (shifting) agriculture
sites. In the Nordic countries historic natural fires caused by
lightning and burning practises have also significantly influenced the
composition and structure of forest ecosystems.
The rapid socio-economic changes in the past four decades led also to a
change of land-use systems and landscape patterns, resulting in
elimination of traditional burning practises. New air quality standards
and the generally prevailing opinion by the government administrations
that fire would damage ecosystem stability and biodiversity, led to
imposing of fire bans in most European countries.
It is now becoming evident that the abandonment of traditional land-use
methods have resulted in the elimination of disturbances, which have
characteristically shaped many valuable landscape types and ecosystems.
Changing paradigms in ecology and nature conservation currently lead to
the reconsideration of fire-exclusion policies in certain sectors of
nature conservation, forestry and landscape management.