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Identification and characterization of spatio-temporal hotspots of forest fires in South Asia

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Forest fire is considered as one of the major threats to global biodiversity and a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions. Rising temperatures, weather conditions, and topography promote the incidences of fire due to human ignition in South Asia. Because of its synoptic, multi-spectral, and multi-temporal nature, remote sensing data can be a state of art technology for forest fire management. This study focuses on the spatio-temporal patterns of forest fires and identifying hotspots using the novel geospatial technique “emerging hotspot analysis tool” in South Asia. Daily MODIS active fire locations data of 15 years (2003–2017) has been aggregated in order to characterize fire frequency, fire density, and hotspots. A total of 522,348 active fire points have been used to analyze risk of fires across the forest types. Maximum number of forest fires in South Asia was occurring during the January to May. Spatial analysis identified areas of frequent burning and high fire density in South Asian countries. In South Asia, 51% of forest grid cells were affected by fires in 15 years. Highest number of fire incidences was recorded in tropical moist deciduous forest and tropical dry deciduous forest. The emerging hotspots analysis indicates prevalence of sporadic hotspots, followed by historical hotspots, consecutive hotspots, and persistent hotspots in South Asia. Of the seven South Asian countries, Bangladesh has highest emerging hotspot area (34.2%) in forests, followed by 32.2% in India and 29.5% in Nepal. Study results offer critical insights in delineation of fire vulnerable forest landscapes which will stand as a valuable input for strengthening management of fires in South Asia.

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This work has been carried out as part of ISRO’s National Carbon Project. We thank ISRO-DOS Geosphere Biosphere Programme for the financial support. We are grateful to Shri Santanu Chowdhury, Director, NRSC, Hyderabad and Dr. V.K. Dadhwal, Project Director, National Carbon Project and Director, Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram, for suggestions and encouragement. We are grateful to NASA for providing access to the MODIS data.

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Correspondence to C. Sudhakar Reddy.

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Reddy, C.S., Bird, N.G., Sreelakshmi, S. et al. Identification and characterization of spatio-temporal hotspots of forest fires in South Asia. Environ Monit Assess 191, 791 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-019-7695-6

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  • Forest
  • Frequency
  • Density
  • Emerging
  • Hotspots, MODIS