Academic Papers


A human-driven decline in global burned area
This 2017 paper shows that global burned area declined by around 25% over the past 18 years, largely in grasslands and savannas, because of the expansion of agriculture into these areas.

Clarifying Amazonia’s burning crisis
In a letter to the editor of Global Change Biology in the wake of the 2019 wildfire season, four academics evaluate the nature and extent of burning in the Amazon, comparing it to the Brazilian government’s claim that it was a “normal” year. They find that the number of active fires in August 2019 was the highest since 2010.

Reserves Protect against Deforestation Fires in the Amazon
This 2009 paper looks at the effectiveness of reserves designed to conserve forests and biodiversity in also avoiding wildfires. It concludes that reserves clearly prevent deforestation fires, but the extent of that depends on the level of protection afforded to the reserve in question.

Amazonian Biomass Burning Enhances Tropical Andean Glaciers Melting
This 2019 paper demonstrates that the black carbon emitted during fires in the Amazon Basin contributes to the melting of tropical glaciers in the Andes. It finds that, in 2010, runoff increased by 4.5% during the peak fire season.

Modeling peat- and forestland conversion by oil palm smallholders in Indonesian Borneo
This 2019 paper looks at who is responsible for the expansion of palm oil plantations in Indonesian Borneo. It finds that independent smallholders are increasingly converting peatland due to the increasing scarcity of suitable land on ordinary soil, and that the smallholders undertaking these damaging activities are likely to belong to indigenous groups rather than be experienced oil palm farmers.

Large scale tropical deforestation drives extreme warming
This 2020 paper explores the links between tropical deforestation, local climatic change in these regions and global climate change. Using satellite observations, the researchers find that industrial-scale deforestation has the potential to alter local climate as much as decades or centuries of global warming under worst-case emissions scenarios. Local temperature increases are likely to compound the impacts of climate change on human health, due to exposure to extreme heat, and compromise crop yields.


Climate risks to Amazon agriculture suggest a rationale to conserve local ecosystems
This 2019 paper explores a nascent area of research into the links between deforestation, climatic change and food security in the Southern Amazonia region of Brazil. Through modelling the authors find that deforestation linked climate change may lead to decreasing crop yields with possible implications for food security. 

Brazilian maize yields negatively affected by climate after land clearing
This paper published in 2020models how different agricultural land-use scenarios could affect local climatic conditions in the Brazilian Cerrado. Researchers find that altered weather, as a result of land-use change, reduces maize yields in all scenarios but soy yields are not notably altered.


Simulating fire regimes in the Amazon in response to climate change and deforestation
This 2011 paper looks at how climate change and deforestation will affect fires in the Amazon, and how this will affect carbon emissions. It finds that forest fires may increase substantially across southern and southwestern Amazon, especially along the highways slated for paving and in agricultural zones.

The critical importance of considering fire in REDD+ programs
This 2012 paper looks at how forest fires can undermine programmes to reduce emission from deforestation (known as REDD+) by compromising the permanence of the carbon that trees are meant to store, while also threatening biodiversity and poverty relief.


Wildfire smoke exposure under climate change: impact on respiratory health of affected communities
This 2019 paper looks at the current literature on respiratory health and wildfire smoke exposure, including anticipated future impacts under a changing climate. It finds that the respiratory health impacts of wildfire smoke is likely to grow in the future.

A systematic review of the physical health impacts from non-occupational exposure to wildfire smoke
This literature review, published in 2015, looks at the impacts of wildfire smoke exposure on human health. It finds that the majority of studies found that wildfire smoke was associated with increased risk of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, but that more studies on mortality and cardiovascular morbidity were needed. This 2016 paper offers a similar literature review.

Wildfire Smoke Exposure and Human Health: Significant Gaps in Research for a Growing Public Health Issue
This is a 2017 literature review of wildfire smoke effects on population health, highlighting the gaps in the research. It particularly focuses on long-term health effects of wildfire smoke, recovery following wildfire smoke exposure, and health consequences of exposure in children.

Agricultural Fires and Health at Birth
This 2019 paper looks at how unborn babies are affected by exposure to wildfire smoke. It finds that late-pregnancy smoke exposure decreases birth weight, gestational length, and in utero survival.


Can atmospheric pollution be considered a co-factor in extremely high level of SARS-CoV-2 lethality in Northern Italy
This 2020 paper doesn’t deal with wildfires specifically, but looks at the link between coronavirus mortality and air pollution in Italy. It finds that people living in an area with high levels of pollutant are more prone to develop chronic respiratory conditions. There are also two pre-prints looking at the links between air pollution and Covid in England and the US, and another published study looking at the links in China.


The economic cost of adverse health effects from wildfire-smoke exposure: a review
This 2010 literature review synthesises studies on the economic impacts of ill health relating to wildfire smoke. It concludes that these costs should be an important part of wildfire management policy, but that there is still limited understanding of the nature of such costs.

The economic cost of the use of fire in the Amazon
This 2004 study examines the overall cost of using fire for agriculture in the Amazon. While fire can enable farmers to clear land cheaply, uncontrolled burning generates losses. Overall, it finds that Amazonian fires cost around 0.2% of the region’s GDP between 1996 and 1999.

Public health impacts of the severe haze in Equatorial Asia in September–October 2015
This 2016 paper estimates that a haze in 2015, the result of fires across Indonesian Borneo, resulted in 100,300 excess deaths across Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.


The IPCC reports are also a valuable repository of information and papers on fires, particularly the following segments:

Chapter 3 of the IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, which looks at how wildfires will change as global temperatures rise.

Chapter 2 of the IPCC Special Report on climate change and land, which, among other things, includes a box on fire and climate change. The Summary for Policymakers provides a useful map to where else fire appears throughout the report.

The IPBES report on biodiversity, particularly Chapter 2.1, has some useful information on fires and the role of logging and deforestation in the decline of nature.


Tropical Forest Fires Watch (Simplified Mandarin Chinese /中文 )
The entire content of this website as a downloadable PDF report in simplified Mandarin Chinese.

Tropical Forest Fires Watch (Spanish/Español)
The entire content of this website as a downloadable PDF report in Spanish.