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Scorched Earth millenium map shows 'fire scars'
Date:5/22/2008

coverage on almost a daily basis.

When vegetation burns the amount of reflected energy is altered, long enough for us to make an observation of the fire scar. Supercomputers located in Belgium were used to process the vast amounts of satellite data used in the project. At the moment, we have users working towards predicting future fire occurrence and fire management issues in the Kruger Park in southern Africa.

The majority of fires occur in Africa. Large swathes of savannah grasslands are cleared every year, up to seven times burnt in the period 2000-2007 (see Figure 1). The system is sustainable because the grass regenerates very quickly during the wet season. From a carbon perspective, there is a net balance due to the regenerating vegetation acting as a carbon sink. Fires in forests are more important as the affected area becomes a carbon source for a number of years.

The forest fires last summer in Greece and in Portugal a couple of years back, remind us that we need to understand the impact of fire on the environment and climate to manage the vegetation of the planet more effectively. Probably 95% of all vegetation fires have a human source; crop stubble burning, forest clearance, hunting, arson are all causes of fire across the globe. Fire has been a feature of the planet in the past and under a scenario of a warmer environment will certainly be a feature in the future.


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Contact: Dr. Kevin Tansey
kjt7@le.ac.uk
University of Leicester
Source:Eurekalert  

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