Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 191–201 | Cite as

Influence of peatland and land cover distribution on fire regimes in insular Southeast Asia

Original Article

Abstract

Anthropogenic biomass burning in insular Southeast Asia facilitates conversion and degradation of ecosystems and emits high amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. We analyzed the influence of peat soil and land cover distribution on the occurrence and characteristics of vegetation fires. Two years of satellite-based active fire detections over Peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and Java were examined together with land cover and peatland maps. Our results showed that fire occurrence nearly tripled (23,000 → 68,000) from a wet La Niña year (2008) to a drier El Niño year (2009). In both years, fires were concentrated in peatlands (in 2009 41% of fires vs. 10% of land area), and the majority of large-scale burning took place in peatlands. Variation in peatland land cover within the study area was noticed to create remarkable different fire regimes. Biomass burning in the intensely managed Sumatran peatlands was characterized by large-scale land clearance fires that took place annually to varying extent. The largely unmanaged degraded peatland ecosystems of Borneo, on the other hand, experienced very little fire activity in a wet year but were ravaged by large-scale wildfires when El Niño conditions arose. We conclude that fire regime characteristics in insular Southeast Asia are strongly connected to occurrence of peat soil and land management status. This leads to high variation of fire activity within this region both annually (depending on weather patters) and over longer time range (depending on land cover/management issues) and greatly complicates estimation of the effects of fires.

Keywords

Biomass burning Vegetation fires Active fire detection Hotspots 

Notes

Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank the MODIS Rapid Response Project at the University of Maryland for providing the active fire data online. In addition, the authors acknowledge financial support from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) of Singapore.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and ProcessingNational University of SingaporeSingaporeSingapore

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