In Canaima National Park (CNP), Venezuela, a protected area inhabited by the Pemón people, socio-cultural and demographic changes have contributed to the apparent unsustainable use of fire, leading to forest and habitat loss. This over-use of fire, together with increased forest vulnerability to fire as a result of global climate change, could put both ecosystems and human well-being at risk. The conflict over fire use derives from the fact that whereas the Pemón depend for their livelihood on the use of fire for shifting cultivation and hunting, the policy of the CNP government agencies is fire exclusion (although this is not effectively enforced). Nevertheless, recent ecological studies have revealed that the creation of a mosaic of patches with different fire histories could be used to create firebreaks that reduce the risk of the wildfires that threaten the vulnerable and diverse savanna-forest transition areas. This technique imitates the traditional cooperative savanna burning strategies of the Pemón. By linking research on knowledge systems with management policies, the impasse over fire in the CNP might be avoided.
KeywordsKey words: Fire ecology, Canaima National Park, Venezuela, Indigenous Pemón, Savanna-forest transition