Nov 3, 2008

Climate change, human land use and future fires in the Amazon

Mark Cochrane and Christopher Barber
Global Change Biology
  • States that the biodiversity-rich Amazon forest is a region of growing concern because many global climate model (GCM) scenarios of climate change forecast reduced precipitation and, in some cases, coupled vegetation models predict dieback of the forest
  • States that to date (in 2008), fires have generally been spatially co-located with road networks and associated human land use because almost all fires in this region are anthropogenic in origin
  • Climate change, if severe enough, could alter this situation, potentially changing the fire regime to one of increased fire frequency and severity for vast portions of the Amazon forest
  • States that high moisture contents and dense canopies have historically made Amazonian forests extremely resistant to fire spread
  • Anticipates that climate will affect the fire situation in the Amazon directly, through changes in temperature and precipitation, and indirectly, through climate-forced changes in vegetation composition and structure
  • Holds that the frequency of drought will be a prime determinant of both how often forest fires occur and how extensive they become
  • Argues that fire risk management needs to take into account landscape configuration, land cover types and forest disturbance history as well as climate and weather