Environmental Management

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 355–372 | Cite as

Wildfires, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity in Tropical Dry Forest in India

  • Joachim Schmerbeck
  • Peter Fiener


This review is intended to contribute to the understanding of the interlinkage between wildfire in India’s tropical dry forest (TDF) and selected ecosystem services (ES), namely forest provisioning and water regulating services, as well as biodiversity. TDF covers approximately 146,000 km2 (4.4 %) of India, whereas according to the MODIS fire product about 2200 km2 (1.4 %) burns per year. As studies on wildfire effects upon ESs and biodiversity in Indian TDFs are rare we partly transferred findings from other (dry) forest areas to the environmental situation in India. In India (intentionally lit) wildfires have a very important connection to local livelihoods and the availability of non-wood forest products. Very important adverse long-term effects are the deterioration of forest ecosystems and soil degradation. The potential for TDF to regulate hydrological cycles is expected to be greater in the absence of fire than with it. A general judgment on the effect of fire on biodiversity is difficult as it depends on the community and species involved but a loss of biodiversity under regular burnings is apparent. Consequently, forest managers need sound knowledge regarding the interplay of wildfires and ecosystem behavior in general and more specific knowledge regarding the effects on taxa being considered for conservation efforts. Generally, much more research is needed to understand the trade-offs between the short-term benefits gained from forest provisioning services and long-term adverse effects.


Wildfire Tropical dry forest Ecosystem services Water regulation NWFP Biodiversity 



We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the Indo-German Centre for Sustainability funded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras. We also thank P.K. Joshi for the permission to use the forest-type map of India. We would also acknowledge the inputs of three anonymous reviewers which substantially helped to improve this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department for Natural ResourcesTERI UniversityNew DelhiIndia
  2. 2.Chair of Silviculture, Institute of Forest Sciences, Faculty of Environment and Natural ResourcesUniversity of FreiburgFreiburgGermany
  3. 3.Institut für GeographieUniversität AugsburgAugsburgGermany

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