Burning the Seasonal Mosaic: Preventative Burning Strategies in the Wooded Savanna of Southern Mali

Abstract

Data are presented indicating a seasonal mosaic pattern of burning in the savanna of southern Mali. A seasonal mosaic is a landscape that is annually re-created by people, and which contains patches of unburned, early burned, and recently burned vegetation. A survey of over 100 farmers and in-depth interviews demonstrates that rural inhabitants of southern Mali begin an annual burning regime early in the dry season in order to fragment the landscape, with the goal of preventing later fires that can damage natural resources. The process of gradually burning off the driest vegetation creates a seasonal mosaic of habitat patches that increases the potential of the landscape for a variety of dry season land uses, including hunting, gathering of savanna products, and grazing. An analysis of a series of Landsat images shows that the practice of mosaic burning is widespread in the wooded savanna, in which burning usually begins early and large fires are rare. On the basis of recent developments in ecological theory and empirical evidence from similar burning regimes in parts of Australia, it is suggested that seasonal mosaic burning in Mali not only prevents damaging late-season fires but increases biodiversity. It is concluded that discourse on African savanna burning overemphasizes the ecologically detrimental aspects of fire, while neglecting the beneficial ones resulting in misguided policies that pose a threat to human livelihoods and savanna ecosystems.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  1. Barbosa, P. M., Grégoire, J. M., and Pereira, J. M. C. (1999). An algorithm for extracting burned areas from time series of AVHRR GAC data applied at continental scale. Remote Sensing and Environment 69: 253–263.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bartlett, H. H. (1955). Fire in relation to primitive agriculture and grazing in the tropics: Annotated biobliography, University of Michigan Department of Botany, Ann Arbor.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Benjaminsen, T. A. (2000). Conservation in the Sahel: Policies and people in Mali, 1900–1998.

  4. In Broch-Due, V., and Schroeder, R. (eds.), Producing Nature and Poverty in Africa, Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, Stockholm, pp. 94–108.

  5. Bird, M. I., and Cali, J. A. (1998). A million year record of fire in sub-Saharan Africa. Nature 394: 767–769.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Biswell, H. (1989). Prescribed Burning in California Wildlands Vegetation Management, University of California Press, Berkeley.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Boyd, R. (ed.) (1999a). Indians Fire and the Land in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon State University Press, Corvaillis.

    Google Scholar 

  8. Boyd, R. (1999b). Strategies of Indian burning in the Willamete Valley. In Boyd, R. (ed.), Indians Fire and the Land in the Pacific Northwest, Oregon State University Press, Corvaillis, pp. 94–138.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Braithwaite, R. W. (1996). Biodiversity and fire in the Savanna Landscape. In Solbrig, O. T., Medina, E., and Silva, J. (eds.), Biodiversity and Savanna Ecosystem Processes, Springer, Berlin, pp. 121–140.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Brinkerhoff, D. W. (1995). African state–society linkages in transition: The case of forestry policy in Mali. Canadian Journal of Development Studies 16(2): 201–228.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Brookman-Amissah, J., Hall, J.B., Swaine, M.D., and Attakorah, J.Y. (1980). Are-assessment of a fire protection experiment in north-eastern Ghana savanna. Journal of Applied Ecology 17: 85–99.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Bucini, G., and Lambin, E. (2002). Fire impacts on vegetation in Central Africa: A remote sensing-based statistical analysis. Applied Geography 22(1): 27–48.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Cahoon, D. R., Stocks, B. J., Levine, J. S., Cofer, W. R., and O'Neill, K. P. (1992). Seasonal distribution of African savanna fires. Nature 359(29): 812–815.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Cole, M. M. (1986). The Savannas, Academic Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Delmas, R. A., Loudjani, P., Podaire, A., and Menaut, J.-C. (1991). Biomass burning in Africa: An assessment of annually burned biomass. In Levine, J. S. (ed.), Global Biomass Burning: Atmospheric, Climatic, and Biospheric Implications, MIT Press, Cambridge.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Deshler, W. (1974). An examination of the extent of fire in grasslands and savanna of Africa along the southern side of the Sahara. In proceedings of the 9th International Symposium on Remote Sensing of the Environment, ERIM, Ann Arbor, MI.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Devineau, J.-L. (1997). Evolution Saisonnière et taux d'Accroissement des Surfaces Terri éres des Ligneux dans Quelques Peuplements Savanicoles Soundaniens del'Ouest Burkinabé. Ecologie 28(3): 217–232.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Doumbia, Y. (1991). Problematic des Feux de Brousse au Mali, Debat Nationale sur les feux de brousse, Unpublished report, Direction Nationale des Eaux et Fôret, Bamako.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Dwyer, E., Pinnock, S., and Gregoire, J.-M. (2000). Global spatial and temporal distribution of vegetation fire as determined from satellite observations. International Journal of Remote Sensing 21(6): 1289–1302.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Eva, H., and Lambin, E. (2000). Fires and land-cover change in the tropics: A remote-sensing analysis at the landscape scale. Journal of Biogeography 27: 765–776.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Eva, H., and Lambin, E. F. (1998a). Remote sensing of biomass burning in tropical regions: Sampling issues and multisensor approach. Remote Sensing and Environment 64: 292–315.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Eva, H., and Lambin, E. F. (1998b). Burnt area mapping in Central Africa using ATSR data. International Journal of Remote Sensing 19: 473–3497.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Fairhead, J., and Leach, M. (1995). Reading forest history backwards: The interaction of policy and local land use in Guinea's forest savanna mosaic, 1893–1993. Environment and History 1: 55–91.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Haynes, C. D. (1991). Use and impact of fire. In Haynes, C. D., Ridpath, M. G., and Williams, M. A. J. (eds.), Monsoonal Australia: Landscape, Ecology and Man in the Northern Lowlands, Balkema, The Netherlands, pp. 61–71.

  25. Hough, J. L. (1993). Why burn the bush? Social approaches to bush-fire management in West African national parks. Biological Conservation 65(1): 23–28.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Hulme, M. (2001). Climatic perspectives on Sahelian dessication: 1973–1998. Global Environmental Change 11: 19–29.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Keay, R. W. J. (1949). An example of Sudan zone vegetation in Nigeria. Journal of Ecology 37(2): 335–364.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Kellman, M., and Meave, J. (1997). Fire in Tropical Gallery Forests of Belize. Journal of Biogeography 24: 23–24.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Koechlin, J. (1997). Ecological Conditions and Degradation Factors in the Sahel. In Raynaut, C. (ed.), Societies and Nature in the Sahel, Routledge, London, pp. 12–36.

  30. Komarek, E. V. (1967). Fire—and the Ecology of Man. Proceedings of the Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference 6: 143–170.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Konig, D., Diarra, T., and Sow, M. (1998). Innovation and Individuality in African Development. University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Koutsias, N., and Karteris, M. (2000). Burned area mapping using logistic regression modeling of a single post-fire Landsat-5 Thematic Mapper image. International Journal of Remote Sensing 21(4): 673–687.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Langaas, S. (1992). Temporal and spatial distribution of savanna fires in Senegal and The Gambia, West Africa, 1989–1990, derived from multi-temporal AVHRR night images. International Journal of Wildland Fire 2(1): 21–36.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Lewis, H. T. (1982). Fire technology and resource management in Aboriginal North America and Australia. In Williams, N. M., and Hunn, E. S. (eds.), Resource Managers: North American and Australian Hunter–Gatherers, AAAS Selected Symposium No. 67, Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp. 45–67.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Lewis, H. T. (1989). Ecological and technological knowledge of fire: Aborigines versus park rangers in Northern Australia. American Anthropologist 91: 940–961.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Lewis, H. T., and Ferguson, T. A. (1988). Yards, corridors, and mosaics: How to burn a boreal forest. Human Ecology 16: 57–77.

    Google Scholar 

  37. Louppe, D., Oattara, N., and Coulibaly, A. (1995). The effects of brush fires on vegetation: The Aubréville Fire Plots after 60 years. Commonwealth Forestry Review 74(4): 288–291.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Malingreau, J.-P., Laporte, N., and Gregoire, J.M. (1990). Exceptional fire events in the tropics: Southern Guinee, January 1987. International Journal Remote Sensing 11(12): 2121–2123.

    Google Scholar 

  39. Mbow, C., Nielson, T. T., and Rasmussen, K. (2000). Savanna fires in east-central Senegal: Distribution patterns, resource management and perceptions. Human Ecology 28(4): 561– 583.

  40. Menault, J.-C. (1993). Effets des feux de savanne sur le stockage et l'emission du carbone et des elements-trace. Sécheresse 4: 251–263.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Menault, J.-C., Abbadie, L., Lavenu, F., Loudjani, P., and Podaire, A. (1991). Biomass burning in West African savannas. In Levine, J. S. (ed.), Global Biomass Burning, MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 133–142.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Menault, J.-C., Lepage, M., and Abbadie, L. (1995). Savannas, woodlands, and dry forests in Africa. In Bullock, S. H., Mooney, H. A., and Medina, E. (eds.), Seasonally Dry Tropical Forests, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 64–92.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Minnich, R. A. (1983). Fire mosaics in southern California and northern Baja California. Science 21: 1287–1294.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Morgan, W. B., and Moss, R. P. (1965). Savanna and forest in Western Nigeria. Africa 35: 286–294.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Nasi, R., and Sabatier, M. (1988). Projet Inventaire des ressources Ligneuses au Mali, DNEF, Bamako.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Nielsen, T. T., and Rassmussen, K. (1997). The distribution in time and space of savanna fires in Burkina Faso as determined from NOAA AVHRR data. Geografisk Tidsskrift 97: 86–97.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Parr, C. L., and Brockett, B. H. (1999). Patch-mosaic burning: A new paradigm for savanna fire management in protected areas? Koedoe 42: 117–130.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Pereira, M. C., and Setzer, A. W. (1993). Spectral characteristics of fire scars in Landsat-5 TM images of Amazonia. International Journal of Remote Sensing 14: 2061–2078.

    Google Scholar 

  49. Press, A. J. (1988). Comparisons of the extent of fire in different land management systems in the top end of the Northern Territory. Proceedings of the Ecological Society of Australia 15: 167–175.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Pyne, S. J. (1982). Fire in America, University ofWashington Press, Seattle.

    Google Scholar 

  51. Pyne, S. J. (1990). Fire Conservancy: The origins of wildland fire protection in British India, America, and Australia. In Goldammer, J. G. (ed.), Fire in the Tropical Biota: Ecosystem Processes and Global Challenges, Springer, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  52. Pyne, S. J. (1997). Vestal Fire, University ofWashington Press, Seattle.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Pyne, S. J. (1999). Ghana with theWind. International Forest Fire News 21: 2–11.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Republic du Mali (1991a). Rapport de l'administration conference sur les feux de brousse, Unpublished report, Counsel de developpement du cercle de Koulikoro, Republique du Mali, Bamako.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Republic du Mali (1991b). Rapport de synthese des C.L.D. de Kati-Kangaba, Unpublished report, Counsels de developpement de cercles de Kati and Kangaba, Republique du Mali, Bamako.

    Google Scholar 

  56. Ribot, J. (1995). Local Forest Control in Mali: An Institutional Analysis of Participatory Policies, The World Bank, Geneva.

    Google Scholar 

  57. Ribot, J. (1996). Participation without representation. Cultural Survival Quarterly Fall: 40–44.

  58. Robinson, J. M. (1991). Problems in global fire evaluation: Is remote sensing the solution? In Levine, J. S. (ed.), Global Biomass Burning, MIT Press, Cambridge.

    Google Scholar 

  59. Rose-Innes, R. (1971). Fire in West African vegetation. Proceedings of the Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference 11: 175–200.

    Google Scholar 

  60. Russell-Smith, J., Lucas, D., Gapindi, M., Gunbunka, B., Kapirigi, N., Namingum, G., Lucas, K., Giuliani, P., and Chaloupka, G. (1997a). Aboriginal resource utilization and fire management practice in western Arhem Land, monsoonal northernAustralia: Notes for prehistory, lessons for the future. Human Ecology 25(2): 159–195.

    Google Scholar 

  61. Russell-Smith, J., Ryan, P. G., and Durieu, R. (1997b). A Landsat MSS-derived fire history of Kakadu National Park, monsoonal northern Australia, 1980–94: Seasonal extent, frequency and patchiness. Journal of Applied Ecology 34: 748–766.

    Google Scholar 

  62. Schmitz, A. (1996). Contrôle et utilization du feu en zones arides et subhumides africaines. FAO, Rome.

    Google Scholar 

  63. Scholes, R. J., and Walker, B. H. (1993). An African Savanna: Synthesis of the Nylsyley Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  64. Scholes, R. J., Kendell, J., and Justice, C. O. (1996). The quantity of biomass burned in southern africa. Journal of Geophysical Research 101: 23667–23676.

    Google Scholar 

  65. Steiber, J., and du Saussay, C. (1987). Probelmatique de la Police Forestiere au Mali. In Seminar National sur la Police Forestiere au Mali, Chap. 2, pp. 11–53.

  66. Stott, P. (1991). Recent trends in the ecology and management of the world's savanna formations. Progress in Physical Geography 15(1): 18–28.

    Google Scholar 

  67. Swaine, M. D., Hawthorne, W. D., and Orgle, T. K. (1992). The effects of fire exclusion on savanna vegetation at Kpong, Ghana. Biotropica 24(2a): 166–172.

    Google Scholar 

  68. Traoré, M. (1980). Circular Bamako, le 24 November 1980, Unpublished Memo, Union Democratique du Peuple Malien, Bureau Executif Central, Republic du Mali.

  69. Turner, M. G. (1989). Landscape ecology: The effect of pattern on process. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 20: 171–197.

    Google Scholar 

  70. Turner, M. G., and Bratton, S. P. (1987). Fire, Grazing, and the Landscape Heterogeneity of a Georgia Barrier Island. In Turner, M. G. (ed.), Landscape Heterogeneity and Disturbance, Springer, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  71. Walker, B. H. (ed.) (1987). Determinants of Tropical Savannas, IRL Press, Oxford.

    Google Scholar 

  72. White, P. S., and Pickett, S. T. A. (1985). Ecology of Natural Disturbance and Patch Dynamics, Academic Press, San Diego.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Laris, P. Burning the Seasonal Mosaic: Preventative Burning Strategies in the Wooded Savanna of Southern Mali. Human Ecology 30, 155–186 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1015685529180

Download citation

  • savanna
  • fires
  • West Africa
  • fire management
  • indigenous resource management