Spatio-temporal patterns of extreme fires in Amazonian forests
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Potsdam, Germany
2 Geography Department, Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
3 Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
Accepted: 23 April 2021
Published online: 24 June 2021
Fires are a fundamental part of the Earth System. In the last decades, they have been altering ecosystem structure, biogeochemical cycles and atmospheric composition with unprecedented rapidity. In this study, we implement a complex networks-based methodology to track individual fires over space and time. We focus on extreme fires—the 5% most intense fires—in the tropical forests of the Brazilian Legal Amazon over the period 2002–2019. We analyse the interannual variability in the number and spatial patterns of extreme forest fires in years with diverse climatic conditions and anthropogenic pressure to examine potential synergies between climate and anthropogenic drivers. We observe that major droughts, that increase forest flammability, co-occur with high extreme fire years but also that it is fundamental to consider anthropogenic activities to understand the distribution of extreme fires. Deforestation fires, fires escaping from managed lands, and other types of forest degradation and fragmentation provide the ignition sources for fires to ignite in the forests. We find that all extreme forest fires identified are located within a 0.5-km distance from forest edges, and up to 56% of them are within a 1-km distance from roads (which increases to 73% within 5 km), showing a strong correlation that defines spatial patterns of extreme fires.
© The Author(s) 2021
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