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Anthropogenic modifications to fire regimes in the wider Serengeti-Mara ecosystem
Univ Liverpool, Dept Earth Ocean & Ecol Sci, Liverpool L69 3GP, Merseyside, England.
Univ Liverpool, Dept Earth Ocean & Ecol Sci, Liverpool L69 3GP, Merseyside, England;Univ Witwatersrand, Ctr African Ecol, Sch Anim Plant & Environm Sci, Johannesburg, South Africa;Univ Pretoria, Dept Zool & Entomol, Pretoria, South Africa.
Univ Witwatersrand, Ctr African Ecol, Sch Anim Plant & Environm Sci, Johannesburg, South Africa;Univ Georgia, Odum Sch Ecol, Athens, GA 30602 USA.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2484-0587
Wake Forest Univ, Dept Biol, Winston Salem, NC 27109 USA.
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2019 (English)In: Global Change Biology, ISSN 1354-1013, E-ISSN 1365-2486, Vol. 25, no 10, p. 3406-3423Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Fire is a key driver in savannah systems and widely used as a land management tool. Intensifying human land uses are leading to rapid changes in the fire regimes, with consequences for ecosystem functioning and composition. We undertake a novel analysis describing spatial patterns in the fire regime of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem, document multidecadal temporal changes and investigate the factors underlying these patterns. We used MODIS active fire and burned area products from 2001 to 2014 to identify individual fires; summarizing four characteristics for each detected fire: size, ignition date, time since last fire and radiative power. Using satellite imagery, we estimated the rate of change in the density of livestock bomas as a proxy for livestock density. We used these metrics to model drivers of variation in the four fire characteristics, as well as total number of fires and total area burned. Fires in the Serengeti-Mara show high spatial variability-with number of fires and ignition date mirroring mean annual precipitation. The short-term effect of rainfall decreases fire size and intensity but cumulative rainfall over several years leads to increased standing grass biomass and fuel loads, and, therefore, in larger and hotter fires. Our study reveals dramatic changes over time, with a reduction in total number of fires and total area burned, to the point where some areas now experience virtually no fire. We suggest that increasing livestock numbers are driving this decline, presumably by inhibiting fire spread. These temporal patterns are part of a global decline in total area burned, especially in savannahs, and we caution that ecosystem functioning may have been compromised. Land managers and policy formulators need to factor in rapid fire regime modifications to achieve management objectives and maintain the ecological function of savannah ecosystems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
WILEY , 2019. Vol. 25, no 10, p. 3406-3423
Keywords [en]
conservation, fire regime, management, overgrazing, protected areas, savannah, Serengeti
National Category
Forest Science Climate Research
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-396145DOI: 10.1111/gcb.14711ISI: 000474483200001PubMedID: 31282085OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-396145DiVA, id: diva2:1369271
Funder
Swedish Research CouncilSwedish Research Council Formas, 2016-06355Available from: 2019-11-11 Created: 2019-11-11 Last updated: 2019-11-11Bibliographically approved

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