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Drought and Spatiotemporal Variability of Forest Fires Across Mexico

Abstract

Understanding the spatiotemporal links between drought and forest fire occurrence is crucial for improving decision-making in fire management under current and future climatic conditions. We quantified forest fire activity in Mexico using georeferenced fire records for the period of 2005–2015 and examined its spatial and temporal relationships with a multiscalar drought index, the Standardized Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI). A total of 47 975 fire counts were recorded in the 11-year long study period, with the peak in fire frequency occurring in 2011. We identified four fire clusters, i.e., regions where there is a high density of fire records in Mexico using the Getis-Ord G spatial statistic. Then, we examined fire frequency data in the clustered regions and assessed how fire activity related to the SPEI for the entire study period and also for the year 2011. Associations between the SPEI and fire frequency varied across Mexico and fire-SPEI relationships also varied across the months of major fire occurrence and related SPEI temporal scales. In particular, in the two fire clusters located in northern Mexico (Chihuahua, northern Baja California), drier conditions over the previous 5 months triggered fire occurrence. In contrast, we did not observe a significant relationship between drought severity and fire frequency in the central Mexico cluster, which exhibited the highest fire frequency. We also found moderate fire-drought associations in the cluster situated in the tropical southern Chiapas where agriculture activities are the main causes of forest fire occurrence. These results are useful for improving our understanding of the spatiotemporal patterns of fire occurrence as related to drought severity in megadiverse countries hosting many forest types as Mexico.

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Acknowledgments

We recognize CONAFOR for gathering and sharing data on records of forest fires across Mexico. We acknowledge the financial support given by CONACYT and UJED. JM Zúñiga helped by commenting a previous version of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Pompa-García Marín.

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Foundation item: Under the auspices of Universidad Juárez del Estado de Durango, Project PRODEP 2017 (No. 120418)

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Marín, P., Julio, C.J., Dante Arturo, R. et al. Drought and Spatiotemporal Variability of Forest Fires Across Mexico. Chin. Geogr. Sci. 28, 25–37 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11769-017-0928-0

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Keywords

  • cluster
  • drought
  • forest fires
  • geostatistics
  • spatial clusters
  • Standardised Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI)