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Concept: Climate forcing agents


Tropical carbon emissions are largely derived from direct forest clearing processes. Yet, emissions from drought-induced forest fires are, usually, not included in national-level carbon emission inventories. Here we examine Brazilian Amazon drought impacts on fire incidence and associated forest fire carbon emissions over the period 2003-2015. We show that despite a 76% decline in deforestation rates over the past 13 years, fire incidence increased by 36% during the 2015 drought compared to the preceding 12 years. The 2015 drought had the largest ever ratio of active fire counts to deforestation, with active fires occurring over an area of 799,293 km2. Gross emissions from forest fires (989 ± 504 Tg CO2year-1) alone are more than half as great as those from old-growth forest deforestation during drought years. We conclude that carbon emission inventories intended for accounting and developing policies need to take account of substantial forest fire emissions not associated to the deforestation process.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Rainforest, Emission standard, Global warming potential, Global warming, Deforestation, Desertification, Climate forcing agents


Deforestation and forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon are a regional-scale anthropogenic process related to biomass burning, which has a direct impact on global warming due to greenhouse gas emissions. Containment of this process requires characterizing its spatial distribution and that of the environmental factors related to its occurrence. The aim of this study is to investigate the spatial and temporal distribution of deforested areas and forest fires in the State of Roraima from 2000 to 2010. We mapped deforested areas and forest fires using Landsat images and associated their occurrence with two phytoclimatic zones: zone with savanna influence (ZIS), and zone without savanna influence (ZOS). Total deforested area during the interval was estimated at 3.06 × 10(3) km(2) (ZIS = 55 %; ZOS = 45 %) while total area affected by forest fires was estimated at 3.02 × 10(3) km(2) (ZIS = 97.7 %; ZOS = 2.3 %). Magnitude of deforestation in Roraima was not related to the phytoclimatic zones, but small deforested areas (≤17.9 ha) predominated in ZOS while larger deforestation classes (>17.9 ha) predominated in ZIS, which is an area with a longer history of human activities. The largest occurrence of forest fires was observed in the ZIS in years with El Niño events. Our analysis indicates that the areas most affected by forest fires in Roraima during 2000-2010 were associated with strong climatic events and the occurrence these fires was amplified in ZIS, a sensitive phytoclimatic zone with a higher risk of anthropogenic fires given its drier climate and open forest structure.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Climate change, Forest, Rainforest, Greenhouse gas, Global warming, Deforestation, Climate forcing agents