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Fire and Humans have a Long History in African Savannas

Fire management has played a role in maintaining biodiversity and in the livelihoods of rural communities. One example is when rural people in West African savannas in Mali burn a “seasonal mosaic” in the landscape. A combination of unburned, early burned and recently burned vegetation reduces the risk of more dangerous fires late in the season. This type of burning also protects and increases biodiversity. And it enables rural people to hunt animals, gather plant foods and regenerate grazing for cattle. Understanding this history is useful when managing contemporary fire regimes. Modern scientific studies have also found that cooler fires in the early season result in partially combusted grass and therefore release less carbon into the atmosphere. This means they can potentially lessen the contribution of fires to global climate change.