Seasonality of vegetation fires as modified by human action: observing the deviation from eco-climatic fire regimes

Authors


Yannick Le Page, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Departamento de Engenharia Florestal, Tapada da Ajuda, 1349-017 Lisboa, Portugal.
E-mail: lepagey@isa.utl.pt

ABSTRACT

Aim  In any region affected, fires exhibit a strong seasonal cycle driven by the dynamic of fuel moisture and ignition sources throughout the year. In this paper we investigate the global patterns of fire seasonality, which we relate to climatic, anthropogenic, land-cover and land-use variables.

Location  Global, with detailed analyses from single 1°× 1° grid cells.

Methods  We use a fire risk index, the Chandler burning index (CBI), as an indicator of the ‘natural’, eco-climatic fire seasonality, across all types of ecosystems. A simple metric, the middle of the fire season, is computed from both gridded CBI data and satellite-derived fire detections. We then interpret the difference between the eco-climatic and observed metrics as an indicator of the human footprint on fire seasonality.

Results  Deforestation, shifting cultivation, cropland production or tropical savanna fires are associated with specific timings due to land-use practices, sometimes largely decoupled from the CBI dynamics. Detailed time series from relevant locations provide comprehensive information about these practices and how they are adapted to eco-climatic conditions.

Main conclusions  We find a great influence of anthropogenic activities on global patterns of fire seasonality. The specificity of the main fire practices and their easy identification from global observation is a potential tool to support land-use monitoring efforts. Our results should also prove valuable in the development of a methodological approach for improving the representation of anthropogenic fire practices in dynamic global vegetation models.

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