Future fire emissions associated with projected land use change in Sumatra



Indonesia has experienced rapid land use change over the last few decades as forests and peatswamps have been cleared for more intensively managed land uses, including oil palm and timber plantations. Fires are the predominant method of clearing and managing land for more intensive uses, and the related emissions affect public health by contributing to regional particulate matter and ozone concentrations and adding to global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Here, we examine emissions from fires associated with land use clearing and land management on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the sensitivity of this fire activity to interannual meteorological variability. We find ~80% of 2005–2009 Sumatra emissions are associated with degradation or land use maintenance instead of immediate land use conversion, especially in dry years. We estimate Sumatra fire emissions from land use change and maintenance for the next two decades with five scenarios of land use change, the Global Fire Emissions Database Version 3, detailed 1-km2 land use change maps, and MODIS fire radiative power observations. Despite comprising only 16% of the original study area, we predict that 37–48% of future Sumatra emissions from land use change will occur in fuel-rich peatswamps unless this land cover type is protected effectively. This result means that the impact of fires on future air quality and climate in Equatorial Asia will be decided in part by the conservation status given to the remaining peatswamps on Sumatra. Results from this article will be implemented in an atmospheric transport model to quantify the public health impacts from the transport of fire emissions associated with future land use scenarios in Sumatra.