eCite Digital Repository

Global combustion: the connection between fossil fuel and biomass burning emissions (1997-2010)


Balch, JK and Nagy, RC and Archibald, S and Bowman, DMJS and Moritz, MA and Roos, CI and Scott, AC and Williamson, GJ, Global combustion: the connection between fossil fuel and biomass burning emissions (1997-2010), Royal Society of London. Philosophical Transactions. Biological Sciences, 371, (1696) Article 20150177. ISSN 0962-8436 (2016) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2016 The Author(s)

DOI: doi:10.1098/rstb.2015.0177


Humans use combustion for heating and cooking, managing lands, and, more recently, for fuelling the industrial economy. As a shift to fossil-fuel-based energy occurs, we expect that anthropogenic biomass burning in open landscapes will decline as it becomes less fundamental to energy acquisition and livelihoods. Using global data on both fossil fuel and biomass burning emissions, we tested this relationship over a 14 year period (1997-2010). The global average annual carbon emissions from biomass burning during this time were 2.2 Pg C per year (0.3 s.d.), approximately one-third of fossil fuel emissions over the same period (7.3 Pg C, 0.8 s.d.). There was a significant inverse relationship between average annual fossil fuel and biomass burning emissions. Fossil fuel emissions explained 8% of the variation in biomass burning emissions at a global scale, but this varied substantially by land cover. For example, fossil fuel burning explained 31% of the variation in biomass burning in woody savannas, but was a non-significant predictor for evergreen needleleaf forests. In the land covers most dominated by human use, croplands and urban areas, fossil fuel emissions were more than 30- and 500-fold greater than biomass burning emissions. This relationship suggests that combustion practices may be shifting from open landscape burning to contained combustion for industrial purposes, and highlights the need to take into account how humans appropriate combustion in global modelling of contemporary fire. Industrialized combustion is not only an important driver of atmospheric change, but also an important driver of landscape change through companion declines in human-started fires.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:fossil fuels, combustion, landscape fire, global climate change
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Other biological sciences
Research Field:Global change biology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Air quality, atmosphere and weather
Objective Field:Atmospheric composition (incl. greenhouse gas inventory)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
UTAS Author:Williamson, GJ (Dr Grant Williamson)
ID Code:109114
Year Published:2016
Web of Science® Times Cited:9
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2016-05-25
Last Modified:2017-11-01

Repository Staff Only: item control page