Title: Characterization of Fire Seasonality and Intensity in Protected Areas of Sub-Saharan Africa Using MODIS Data
Citation: Proceedings of the VI International Conference on Forest Fire Research p. 106
Publisher: Association for the Development of Industrial Aerodynamics (ADAI), University of Coimbra
Publication Year: 2010
JRC N°: JRC59844
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC59844
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: Fire is a crucial ecological component of many ecosystems, especially in the savannahs where it contributes to maintain the habitat over time, keeping the balance between the herbaceous and woody vegetation. Savannahs cover large regions of the African continent and this is also the main reason for the high fire activity in the continent, which registers among the highest fire occurrence rates in the world. Since fire is so wide spread in this continent many plant and animal species have evolved with it and are now dependent on its occurrence. For these reasons in many conservation programs fire becomes an essential element to promote biodiversity and support land management. We used satellite data to monitor the fire activity in 744 protected areas (PAs) of Sub-Saharan Africa, their levels of protection being distributed between class I and IV of the IUCN list (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Information on fire occurrence is derived from the active fire product provided by the MODIS fire team. We use these data to characterize the spatial and temporal distribution of fires but also to define the fire intensity using the Fire Radiative Power (FRP) which is available with the MODIS active fire product. Information on fire occurrence and FRP is extracted for the protected areas and a 25km buffer zone around each of them in order to compare the fire intensity inside and outside the protected areas. Fire occurrence was analyzed during the dry seasons of years corresponding to an El Niño and La Niña events (2002-2003, 2007-2008 respectively). The dry season is defined using the FEWS RFE rainfall data (NOAA¿s Climate Prediction Center). Since fires have a variety of intensity and effects on vegetation, depending on the conditions at the time of burning, we identify three sub-periods within each dry season (early, middle and late) to evaluate possible differences in the fire activity and intensity which can be related to the meteorological conditions (drier the later in the dry season). Results show lower fire detections in the PAs than their buffer, but a general higher fire intensity, FRP, inside the protected areas, in both the seasons considered. This condition is related to the higher fuel availability inside the PAs and to its more continuous spatial distribution. The results of the present study will be used in future work to understand the effect of fire intensity on the habitat at continental level, and more specifically its role in the process of isolation of protected areas and how they are connected to the surrounding landscape. This work is part of the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA) which has been set up by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The aim of this Observatory is to provide end-users with information about the state of biodiversity within protected areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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