Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Errakina: Pastoral Fire Use and Landscape Memory In the Basque Region of the French Western Pyrenees

Journal of Ethnobiology 33(1):86-104. 2013
Errakina: Pastoral Fire Use and Landscape Memory In the Basque Region of the French Western Pyrenees
No Access
Michael R. Coughlan
Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 ( )


People in the French Western Pyrenees have used fire for millennia in order to shape and manage landscapes. This history has left cultural and ecological legacies that both reflect and ensure the relative persistence of landscape patterns and processes. In this paper I draw on ethnographic research, ethnohistorical evidence, and Bayesian spatial analyses of historical fire use locations and land use maps to shed some light on human-fire-landscape dynamics in the Pyrenees for the years 1830 to 2011. I show how cultural and ecological legacies reflect a self-organized fire management regime that emerges from fire use driven by the production goals of individual households. I frame the self-organizing dynamic inherent in Pyrenean pastoral fire use as “landscape memory.” This conclusion has implications for the future direction of fire-related conservation policy for the Pyrenees and for analogous systems characterized by self-organized land management regimes.


Dans les Pyrénées occidentales françaises, le feu est utilisé depuis des millénaires pour la gestion des paysages. Cette histoire a laissé un héritage culturel et écologique qui se reflète dans les paysages actuels et qui garantit leur persistance relative. Dans cet article, je m'appuie sur des recherches ethnographiques et ethnohistoriques, sur des analyses spatiales bayésiennes du feu pastoral ainsi que sur des cartes d'usages des sols pour éclairer les relations entre anthropisation, feu et paysage dans les Pyrénées entre 1830 et 2011. Je démontre comment cet héritage culturel et écologique reflète un régime de feu auto-géré. Ce régime se caractérise par une utilisation du feu motivée par les objectifs de production des fermes. Je montre comment cette auto-gestion inhérente à la pratique du feu pastoral a contribué à la formation d'une « mémoire du paysage » dans les Pyrénées. Cette conclusion a des implications pour l'orientation future des politiques de conservation associées au feu dans les Pyrénées, ainsi que pour d'autres systèmes également caractérisés par des régimes auto-gérés.

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Cited by

Michael R. Coughlan. (2014) Farmers, flames, and forests: Historical ecology of pastoral fire use and landscape change in the French Western Pyrenees, 1830–2011. Forest Ecology and Management 312, 55-66.
Online publication date: 1-Jan-2014.