Landscape Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 5, pp 699–709 | Cite as

Interactions between fire and flooding in a southern African floodplain system (Okavango Delta, Botswana)

  • Michael Heinl
  • Amy Neuenschwander
  • Jan Sliva
  • Cornelis Vanderpost
Research Article


A series of 98 satellite images was analysed to reconstruct the fire and flood history of a floodplain system in southern Africa (Okavango Delta, Botswana). The data was used to investigate interactions between fire and flooding, and to determine the relevance of rainfall and flood-events for fire occurrences on floodplains and on drylands. The aims of the study are (1) to analyse and compare the fire frequency on floodplains and on adjacent drylands, (2) to investigate the influence of rainfall and flooding on the fire occurrence and (3) to determine correlations between fire frequency and flood frequency. The analyses show higher fire frequencies on floodplains than on drylands because of higher biomass production and fuel loads. The fire occurrence on drylands shows a correlation with annual rainfall events, while the fire frequency on floodplains is in principle determined by the flood frequency. Between floodplain types, clear differences in the susceptibility to fire where shown by analysing flood frequency vs. fire frequency. Here, the highest potential to burn was found for floodplains that get flooded about every second year. By calculating mean fire return intervals, the potential to burn could be specified for the different floodplain types.

Key words:

Fire ecology Fire frequency Fire history Flood frequency Landsat Remote sensing Satellite images Savanna Swamp Wetland 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Heinl
    • 1
  • Amy Neuenschwander
    • 2
  • Jan Sliva
    • 1
  • Cornelis Vanderpost
    • 3
  1. 1.Chair of Vegetation EcologyTechnische Universitaet MuenchenFreisingGermany
  2. 2.Center for Space ResearchUniversity of Texas at AustinAustin
  3. 3.Harry Oppenheimer Okavango Research CentreUniversity of BotswanaMaunBotswana

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