Study finds increased moisture facilitated decline in African fires | 6/11/2019 | Staff
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A prescribed burn travels across the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Credit: Luigi Boschetti/University of Idaho.

The amount of area burned across Africa declined by 18.5 percent between 2002 and 2016, according to a new study, and this reduction was likely driven by an increase in plant-available moisture and not solely changes in human behavior, as previous studies have found.

Study - AGU - Geophysical - Research - Letters

The study was published in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Africa is the most fire-prone continent in the world, with more than half of the globe's burned area and fire-related greenhouse gas emissions. However, over the past 15 years, satellite observations indicate Africa is leading trends that show a decrease in the amount of burned area worldwide.

Studies - People - Humans - Trends - Fire

"In past studies, people have assumed that humans drive trends in fire activity in Africa. But, when you think about the main drivers of fire, you usually think of climate. Up until now, researchers haven't found strong connections between fire and climate in Africa," said Maria Zubkova, a University of Idaho doctoral student in the College of Natural Resources and lead author of the study. "We wanted to understand the relationship between fire, climate, vegetation and humans in Africa."

Using satellite and climate data, the researchers analyzed changes in fire activity in Africa and investigated the impact climate and human factors had on fire trends.

Team - Size - Area - Africa - Miles

The team found the size of burned area in Africa averaged approximately 1 million square miles a year, roughly four times the size of Texas, from 2002-16. However, the size of the burned area declined by 18.5 percent across the entire study period or roughly 200,000 square miles—about twice the size of Oregon. Most...
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