Biomass burning from grassland, forests, and agricultural waste results in large amounts of gases and particles emitted to the atmosphere, which affect air quality, population health, crop development, and natural vegetation. Regional atmospheric circulations can transport those plumes of pollutants over hundreds of kilometers, affecting vulnerable environments such as those considered protected natural areas (PNAs). This study evaluates the spatiotemporal distribution of active fires detected, and associated emissions, in central and southern Mexico from satellite data between March and June 2017, to assess the impact of the smoke plumes on protected ecosystems. The arrival of smoke plumes to selected PNAs (both near large urban centers and in remote areas) is assessed using airmass forward trajectories from selected emission sources. The spatial distribution of the remotely derived aerosol optical depth confirms the regional impact of particle emissions from the observed fires on PNAs, particularly in central Mexico. The identified areas of high fire density are also associated with large coarse particle concentrations at the surface. Moreover, there is a significant contribution of organic carbon to the total coarse particle mass, 60% on average. Finally, while most of the impact in ambient pollution is observed in PNAs located close to the regions with active fires in southern Mexico and Central America, the long-range transport of smoke plumes reaching the USA was also confirmed.
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The databases of satellite data and reanalysis, as well as the HYSPLIT model and the information on the Protected National Areas, are widely available to the community, and the links are presented.
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The authors gratefully acknowledge the availability of the public data sets of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), which was highly helpful for this work, as well as data availability from the Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS) at NASA and the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) for the provision of the HYSPLIT transport and dispersion model.
This study was partially funded by grant Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACyT) FC2164-2016. CONACyT is also acknowledged for the doctoral scholarship for BR (#407033) and for the SNI-III assistantship for FTJ.
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Trujano-Jiménez, F., Ríos, B., Jaramillo, A. et al. The impact of biomass burning emissions on protected natural areas in central and southern Mexico. Environ Sci Pollut Res 28, 17275–17289 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-020-12095-y
- Biomass burning
- Agricultural practices
- Smoke plume
- Protected natural areas