Fire science for rainforests

Abstract

Forest fires are growing in size and frequency across the tropics. Continually eroding fragmented forest edges, they are unintended ecological disturbances that transcend deforestation to degrade vast regions of standing forest, diminishing ecosystem services and the economic potential of these natural resources. Affecting the health of millions, net forest fire emissions may have released carbon equivalent to 41% of worldwide fossil fuel use in 1997–98. Episodically more severe during El Niño events, pan-tropical forest fires will increase as more damaged, less fire-resistant, forests cover the landscape. Here I discuss the current state of tropical fire science and make recommendations for advancement.

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Figure 1: Diagram of interrelationships between tropical land-cover changes and forest fires.
Figure 2: Spatial distribution of fire regimes62.
Figure 3: Positive and negative feedbacks controlling fire processes in tropical forests.

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Acknowledgements

I am grateful for support from NASA.

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Correspondence to Mark A. Cochrane.

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