Biomass burning is a source of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide. In addition, biomass burning is a source of chemically active gases, including carbon monoxide, nonmethane hydrocarbons, and nitric oxide. These gases, along with methane, lead to the chemical production of tropospheric ozone (another greenhouse gas) as well as control the concentration of the hydroxyl radical, which regulates the lifetime of almost every atmospheric gas. Following biomass burning, biogenic emissions of nitrous oxide, nitric oxide, and methane are significantly enhanced. It is hypothesized that enhanced postburn biogenic emissions of these gases are related to fire-induced changes in soil chemistry and/or microbial ecology. Biomass burning, once believed to be a tropical phenomenon, has been demonstrated by satellite imagery to also be a regular feature of the world's boreal forests. One example of biomass burning is the extensive 1987 fire that destroyed more than 12 million acres of boreal forest in the People's Republic of China and across its border in the Soviet Union. Recent estimates indicate that almost all biomass burning is human-initiated and that it is increasing with time. With the formation of greenhouse and chemically active gases as direct combustion products and a longer-term enhancement of biogenic emissions of gases, biomass burning may be a significant driver for global change.