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Lightning Fires in a Brazilian Savanna National Park: Rethinking Management Strategies


Fire occurrences and their sources were monitored in Emas National Park, Brazil (17°49′–18°28′S; 52°39′–53°10′W) from June 1995 to May 1999. The extent of burned area and weather conditions were registered. Forty-five fires were recorded and mapped on a GIS during this study. Four fires occurred in the dry winter season (June–August; 7,942 ha burned), all caused by humans; 10 fires occurred in the seasonally transitional months (May and September) (33,386 ha burned); 31 fires occurred in the wet season, of which 30 were caused by lightning inside the park (29,326 ha burned), and one started outside the park (866 ha burned). Wet season lightning fires started in the open vegetation (wet field or grassy savanna) at a flat plateau, an area that showed significantly higher fire incidence. On average, winter fires burned larger areas and spread more quickly, compared to lightning fires, and fire suppression was necessary to extinguish them. Most lightning fires were patchy and extinguished primarily by rain. Lightning fires in the wet season, previously considered unimportant episodes, were shown to be very frequent and probably represent the natural fire pattern in the region. Lightning fires should be regarded as ecologically beneficial, as they create natural barriers to the spread of winter fires. The present fire management in the park is based on the burning of preventive firebreaks in the dry season and exclusion of any other fire. This policy does not take advantage of the beneficial effects of the natural fire regime and may in fact reduce biodiversity. The results presented here stress the need for reevaluating present policies and management procedures concerning fire in cerrado conservation areas.

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Ramos-Neto, M., Pivello, V. Lightning Fires in a Brazilian Savanna National Park: Rethinking Management Strategies. Environmental Management 26, 675–684 (2000).

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  • KEY WORDS: Wildfire; Lightning; Brazilian savanna; Cerrado; Fire management; Emas National Park