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A comparative analysis of spatial, temporal, and ecological characteristics of forest fires in seasonally dry tropical ecosystems in the Western Ghats, India

Kodandapani, Narendran and Cochrane, Mark A and Sukumar, R (2008) A comparative analysis of spatial, temporal, and ecological characteristics of forest fires in seasonally dry tropical ecosystems in the Western Ghats, India. In: Forest Ecology and Management, 256 (4). pp. 607-617.

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The Western Ghats in India is one of the 25 global hotspots of biodiversity, and it is the hotspot with the highest human density. This study considers variations in the regional fire regime that are related to vegetation type and past human disturbances in a landscape. Using a combination of remote sensing data and GIS techniques, burnt areas were delineated in three different vegetation types and various metrics of fire size were estimated. Belt transects were enumerated to assess the vegetation characteristics and fire effects in the landscape. Temporal trends suggest increasingly short fire-return intervals in the landscape. In the tropical dry deciduous forest, the mean fire-return interval is 6 years, in the tropical dry thorn forest mean fire-return interval is 10 years, and in the tropical moist deciduous forest mean fire-return interval is 20 years. Tropical dry deciduous forests burned more frequently and had the largest number of fires in any given year as well as the single largest fire (9900 ha). Seventy percent, 56%, and 30% of the tropical moist deciduous forests, tropical dry thorn forests, and tropical dry deciduous forests, respectively have not burned during the 7-year period of study. The model of fire-return interval as a function of distance from park boundary explained 63% of the spatial variation of fire-return interval in the landscape. Forest fires had significant impacts on species diversity and regeneration in the tropical dry deciduous forests. Species diversity declined by 50% and 60% in the moderate and high frequency classes, respectively compared to the low fire frequency class. Sapling density declined by ca. 30% in both moderate and high frequency classes compared to low frequency class. In tropical moist deciduous ecosystems, there were substantial declines in species diversity, tree density, seedling and sapling densities in burned forests compared to the unburned forests. In contrast forest fires in tropical dry thorn forests had a marginal positive effect on ecosystem diversity, structure, and regeneration.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Forest Ecology and Management
Publisher: Elsevier
Additional Information: Copyright for this article belongs to Elsevier B.V.
Keywords: Spatial;temporal;ecological;forest fires;tropics;India.
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2008 10:36
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2010 04:50
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/15929

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