Fire Ecology, 2013
Volume 9, Issue 1
Although fires in wetlands would seem to be rare or impossible by definition, these ecosystems do occasionally experience fire. A common feature of fires in wetlands is smoldering combustion in organic soils, such as peat and muck. Increasing occurrence and size of these events from the Arctic to the tropics has been matched by increasing research interest, yet our understanding of smoldering lags behind that of flame-based combustion. Smoldering fires represent hazards to human health and safety locally, and global ecological concerns due to their potential for carbon release. Additionally, ecological effects of smoldering ground fires are generally perceived to be negative, particularly where their historical frequencies are thought to be low. This synthesis describes some aspects of smoldering combustion, and discusses some of the particular ecological aspects of ground fires, focusing on examples from the southeastern United States. We suggest that despite the well-recognized negative aspects of ground fires, there may exist under-recognized ecological benefits that should be further studied and weighed against known hazards posed by these events.