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Geophysical Monograph Series



  • Rain forest ecology—Amazon River Region
  • Biosphere—Research—Amazon River Region
  • Climatic changes—Amazon River Region
  • Amazon River Region—Climate



The spatial distribution and interannual variability of fire in Amazonia

Wilfrid Schroeder

Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA

Ane Alencar

Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazônia, Brasília, Brazil

Eugenio Arima

Department of Environmental Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York, USA

Alberto Setzer

Centro de Previsão do Tempo e Estudos Climáticos, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais, São José dos Campos, Brazil

Charcoal evidence suggests that fires in Amazonian forests were an infrequent agent of forest disturbance prior to the twentieth century. However, the spatial and temporal distribution of fires changed dramatically during the past few decades. Fire has become one of the driving forces of land use and land cover change in Amazonia. Increasing human intervention in the region, in conjunction with climate anomalies, has exposed tropical forests to an unprecedented amount of vegetation fires with important consequences to the functioning of the complex Amazonian system and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases. In this chapter, the main fire types in Amazonia are discussed: deforestation, maintenance, accidental, and natural fires. The major causes and consequences of vegetation fires are analyzed in light of their social, economic, and biophysical drivers. Satellite data are used to derive current maps describing the spatial and temporal distribution of fires in the region, highlighting some of the important linkages between human activities and climate conditions that combine to create unique anthropogenic fire regimes across Amazonia.

Citation: Schroeder, W., A. Alencar, E. Arima, and A. Setzer (2009), The spatial distribution and interannual variability of fire in Amazonia, in Amazonia and Global Change, Geophys. Monogr. Ser., vol. 186, edited by M. Keller et al., pp. 43–60, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/2008GM000724.


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