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Understanding fire patterns and fire drivers for setting a sustainable management policy of the New-Caledonian biodiversity hotspot

Abstract : New Caledonia (NC) is a biodiversity hotspot sheltering terrestrial ecosystems of high ecological and conservation value including tropical dry forests, rainforests, and maquis. However, uncontrolled bushfires threaten this exceptional biodiversity. A science-based fire management policy could reduce the impact of unwanted fires and help facing climate change. However, to date, data on the location, extent, causal factors and spatial patterns of fires had not been collected. We compiled a 13-year-long (1999–2011) spatially-explicit fire database for NC using MODIS and Landsat data. Using boosted regression trees we disentangled the role of anthropogenic factors, physiography, weather and vegetation on fire activity. We also characterized the location of fires and the vegetation composition at the fire edges, in order to determine which ecosystems were especially vulnerable. Fire size distribution was typically asymmetric with many small fires (<10 ha) and very few large fires (>500 ha). Ignitions were preferentially located close to villages, cities or roads, at low elevation and linked to high values of fire weather index. Fires were larger at the end of the dry season and during El Niño events. Most fires were bushfires burning in savannas, thickets and maquis, while rainforests were rather ‘avoided’ by fire. However, bushfires generally propagated towards forests of high-conservation value, thus increasing the potential for forest edge erosion. As savanna-forest and maquis-forest mosaics are dominant in the landscape, we discuss the extent to which NC could become a ‘fire trap’ where fire cannot be easily extirpated. Based on our spatially-explicit information on fire activity, we make recommendations for a sustainable forest and fire management policy which would balance the traditional use of fire and the conservation of the most valuable ecosystems. In particular, it may help by reducing the damages of large and destructive bushfires ignited during drought peaks.
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Déposant : Vincent Moron <>
Soumis le : jeudi 9 juillet 2020 - 14:55:00
Dernière modification le : mercredi 10 février 2021 - 03:30:18



Thomas Curt, Laurent Borgniet, Thomas Ibanez, Vincent Moron, Christelle Hély. Understanding fire patterns and fire drivers for setting a sustainable management policy of the New-Caledonian biodiversity hotspot. Forest Ecology and Management, Elsevier, 2015, 337, pp.48-60. ⟨10.1016/j.foreco.2014.10.032⟩. ⟨hal-02895149⟩



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