Fire ecology is a branch of ecology that focuses on the origins of wildland fire and it’s relationship to the environment that surrounds it, both living and non-living. A wildland fire is defined as any fire that is burning in a natural environment. Fire ecologists recognize that fire is a natural process, and that it often operates as an integral part of the ecosystem in which it occurs.
The main factors that are looked at in fire ecology are fire dependence and adaptation of plants and animals, fire history, fire regime and fire effects on ecosystems.
In the 1930’s, researchers in the southern United States argued against the negative perspective that has surrounded fire, with the belief that all fire is bad. It was realized that the devastating picture painted by huge-scale fires produced fear in the minds of the public (and in politicians and scientists alike), and that this generated detrimental results in response to any wildland fires. These researchers recognized that there are species of plants that rely upon the effects of fire to make the environment more hospitable for regeneration and growth. Fire in these environments prepares the soil for seeding by creating an open seedbed, making nutrients more available for uptake and often killing plants that are invading into the habitat and competing with native species.