Action: Build fire breaks
Key messagesRead our guidance on Key messages before continuing
- We found no studies that evaluated the effects, on peatland vegetation, of building fire breaks.
‘We found no studies’ means that we have not yet found any studies that have directly evaluated this action during our systematic journal and report searches. Therefore we have been unable to assess whether or not the action is effective or has any harmful impacts. Please get in touch if you know of such a study for this action.
Naturally, most peatlands do not burn often. Bogs and tropical peat swamps may only burn every few centuries (Lindsay et al. 2011; Page & Hooijer 2016). Some fens may burn more often, perhaps annually in parts of North America (Middleton et al. 2006). Frequent, intense, uncontrolled wild fires may be damaging to peatland vegetation that is not adapted to cope with them.
Fire breaks could be constructed to restrict fires to smaller areas of peatlands. Fire breaks could be strips of resistant trees, strips cleared of vegetation, embankments, empty ditches or water-filled ditches (Adinugroho et al. 2011). Caution: Some fire breaks are only suitable as short-term measures and should be dismantled once the fire risk has passed (e.g. ditches that can drain the peatland; Bess et al. 2014).
Key peatland types where this action may be appropriate: bogs, fens/fen meadows, tropical peat swamps.
Related actions: clear/remove vegetation to prevent wild fire; rewet peat to prevent wild fire; plant shelter belts to protect peatlands; increase ‘on the ground’ protection, including fire fighting teams.
Adinugroho W.C., Suryadiputra I.N.N., Saharjo B.H. & Siboro L. (2011) Manual for the Control of Fire in Peatlands and Peatland Forest. Wetlands International Indonesia & Wildlife Habitat Canada, Bogor.
Bess J.A., Chimner R.A. & Kangas L.C. (2014) Ditch restoration in a large Northern Michigan fen: vegetation response and basic porewater chemistry. Ecological Restoration, 32, 260–274.
Lindsay R., Birnie R. & Clough J. (2011) Burning. IUCN UK Peatland Programme Briefing Note No. 8.
Middleton B., Holsten B. & van Diggelen R. (2006) Biodiversity management of fens and fen meadows by grazing, cutting and burning. Applied Vegetation Science, 9, 307–316.
Page S.E. & Hooijer A. (2016) In the line of fire: the tropical peatlands of South East Asia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371, 20150176.