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Spatiotemporal patterns of burned areas, fire drivers, and fire probability across the equatorial Andes

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Field-based fire studies in the equatorial Andes indicate that fires are strongly associated with biophysical and anthropogenic variables. However, fire controls and fire regimes at the regional scale remain undocumented. Therefore, this paper describes spatial and temporal burned-area patterns, identifies biophysical and anthropogenic fire drivers, and quantifies fire probability across 6° of latitude and 3° of longitude in the equatorial Andes. The spatial and temporal burned-area analysis was carried out based on 18 years (2001–2018) of the MCD64A1 MODIS burned-area product. Climate, topography, vegetation, and anthropogenic variables were integrated in a logistic regression model to identify the significance of explanatory variables and determine fire occurrence probability. A total of 5779 fire events were registered during the 18 years of this study, located primarily along the western cordillera of the Andes and spreading from North to South. Eighty-eight percent of these fires took place within two fire hotspots located in the northwestern and southwestern corners of the study area. Ninety-nine percent occurred during the second part of the year, between June and December. The largest density of fires was primarily located on herbaceous vegetation and shrublands. Results show that mean monthly temperature, precipitation and NDVI during the pre-fire season, the location of land cover classes such as forest and agriculture, distance to roads and urban areas, slope, and aspect were the most important determinants of spatial and temporal fire distribution. The logistic regression model achieved a good accuracy in predicting fire probability (80%). Probability was higher in the southwestern and northern corners of the study area, and lower towards the north in the western and eastern piedmonts of the Andes. This analysis contributes to the understanding of fires in mountains within the tropics. The results here presented have the potential to contribute to fire management and control in the region.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the Escuela Politécnica Nacional (National Polytechnic School) for the development of the project PIJ 17-05: “Los patrones climáticos globales y su influencia en la respuesta temporal y espacial de índices espectrales de la vegetación del páramo en el Ecuador” (Global climate patterns and their influence on temporal and spatial responses of the Ecuadorian paramo vegetation’s spectral indices).

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Correspondence to Xavier Zapata-Ríos.

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All authors contributed to the study’s conception and design. Material preparation, data collection, and analyses were performed by C. Lopez-Fabara, X. Zapata-Rios, A. Navarrete, S. Torres, and M. Flores. The first manuscript draft was written by X. Zapata-Rios and C. Lopez-Fabara. Manuscript revisions were completed by X. Zapata-Ríos. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Zapata-Ríos, X., Lopez-Fabara, C., Navarrete, A. et al. Spatiotemporal patterns of burned areas, fire drivers, and fire probability across the equatorial Andes. J. Mt. Sci. 18, 952–972 (2021).

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