Traditional use of field burning in Ireland: History, culture and contemporary practice in the uplands

Matthew S. Carroll, Catrin M. Edgeley, Ciaran Nugent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Fire use is increasingly recognised as a central component of integrated land management in fire-prone places. Historically, fire use has been commonplace in many places in Ireland, where field burning is an established practice with a long pedigree among upland farmers seeking to improving forage among other benefits. This practice has been subject to controversy as wildfires-a hazard often associated with upland burning practice-continue to gain public attention and concern. This research seeks to understand the practice of field burning from the viewpoint of practitioners themselves through focus groups with upland burners conducted in a variety of locations across Ireland. Discussions focused on the history of field burning, reasons for its use, and how knowledge of the techniques involved in burning has been passed down through generations. The narrative that emerges is that of a critical livelihood-supporting practice steeped in social and ecological value but threatened by stringent regulation and shifting public opinion. We suggest that one way to preserve this practice may be to establish more formal linkages between fire use practitioners and Ireland's fire services, public land managers and regulators to promote appropriate use of traditional fire within modern legal and best practice frameworks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)399-409
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Wildland Fire
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • agricultural land management
  • cross-boundary collaboration
  • field burning
  • fire policy
  • fire use
  • focus groups
  • intergenerational learning
  • traditional knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Ecology


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