Special Exhibition "NATURAL HISTORY OF WILDFIRE"

Fossils Tell the Past, Present, and Future of Wildfire

The recently reported large-scale wildfires around the world are mainly caused by climate change and threats to biodiversity. Hence, an international response is urgently needed. Wildfires may be considered to be happening somewhere far away from those of us living in humid Japan. In the past however, wildfires used to occur periodically in Japan, depending on the season. Wildfires started to occur after the appearance of plants on the earth approximately 430 million years ago, and the characteristics of wildfires have changed in response to the evolution of plants (fuel) and changes in the global environment.

By examining wildfires with a long-term viewpoint from the past to present, this exhibition provides understanding of the changes occurring in the global environment as well as considers the effect of human activities on the global environment.

Precautions for Visitors

Please book in advance

Online advanced booking is required for all visitors to enter the museum (Ueno district).

Exhibition

Title Special Exhibition
"NATURAL HISTORY OF WILDFIRE"
Period November 15, 2022 (Tue) – February 26 (Sun), 2023
Venue Japan Gallery 1F Exhibition Hall for temporally exhibition
Hours 9:00~17:00
*Opening days, hours etc. are subject to alteration. Please check the website before your visit.
Closed Monday, December 28, 2022 - January 1, 2023, January 10
(Except January 2, 9 and February 13)
Organizers National Museum of Nature and Science
Cooperation
  • Saitama Museum of Rivers,
  • Lake Biwa Museum,
  • Forest Research and Management Organization,
  • Tochigi Prefectural Museum,
  • Ibaraki Nature Museum

Access

National Museum of Nature and Science
Address 7-20 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo 110-8718
Map of National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo.

What to see

1 What are wildfires?

When, where and how do wildfires occur? In this chapter, the correlation between wildfire occurrences and season, and three elements related to such occurrences, "oxygen," "fuel," and "ignition phenomenon" are explained. In addition, the impact of wildfires on the climate, topography and living organisms, and how those organisms adapt to fire are introduced.

FIRMS[NASA]

FIRMS
[NASA]

Plants which have adapted to fire Banksia aemula

Plants which have adapted to fire Banksia aemula

2 How to study wildfires of the past

After a wildfire, burnt and charcoalized plants are left behind. When these substances are studied, burn temperature and oxygen concentration at that time can be determined, and characteristics of what kind of wildfire occurred can be observed.

Flowers left behind after a fire Calluna vulgaris[Andrew Scott]

Flowers left behind after a fire Calluna vulgaris
[Andrew Scott]

3 The history of wildfires

The fuel (plants) and oxygen concentration related to wildfires have greatly changed over the earth's long history. Wildfires occurred on a large scale in high oxygen concentration conditions, and even when oxygen concentrations were close to those of the present, wildfires periodically occurred in various regions, depending on the climate. The history of wildfires, which have established a deep relationship with living organisms, is traced, focusing on the evolution of plants and changes in oxygen concentration.

A lizard hiding in a tree hollow [Steve Greb]

A lizard hiding in a tree hollow [Steve Greb]

Charcoal contained in the strata [Andrew Scott]

Charcoal contained in the strata [Andrew Scott]

4 Fire and man

Man has used fire to process food and subdue the surrounding natural environment. Traces of these activities are preserved as charcoal. Activities of prehistoric man as revealed in the charcoal remains, as well as the activities carried out in the modern society, such as vegetation management using fire, are introduced in this chapter.

Soil monolith that contains Andosol soil [private collection]

Soil monolith that contains Andosol soil
[private collection]

5 The future of wildfires

We humans have established an inseparable relationship with fire. How should we face the wildfires of the future? Using simulations which predict wildfires in the near future, issues which must be solved will be considered.