This indicator shows the trend in the land area (percentage) that was burned each year during 2002-2012.
By 2015, the multiple anthropogenic pressures on coral reefs, and other vulnerable ecosystems impacted by climate change or ocean acidification are minimized, so as to maintain their integrity and functioning.
A trend in this indicator shows whether the extent of land area that is affected by fire is increasing or decreasing over time. The burned area percentage can range from 0-100%.
A large increase or decrease in the percentage of area burned could modify the established fire regime, representing a threat to biodiversity. Ecosystems are usually adapted to a specific range of disturbances, and modifications outside of this range may stress these systems. For example, an increase in the percentage of area burned can indicate higher pressures on the ecosystems, and can result in habitat and biodiversity loss.
This indicator can also be used to assess conservation policies because a decrease in the burned area percentage may be the result of targeted conservation actions. Although this indicator does not provide information about the specific causes of the fire regime alteration, it can help to identify critical situations (such as a large increase of burned area) that can then be furthered analyzed using additional data. For example, information about national conservation policies can help interpret the tendency in fire occurrence in specific countries. A modification of the fire regime at the ecoregion level, by contrast, can reflect land use change or the effect of climate change. For example, a reduction in precipitation or longer dry seasons may increase fire occurrence and therefore the average burned area size. Thus, further analysis of potential co-factors is needed to better interpret trends in fire occurrence.
This indicator is available globally at the scale of individual countries and regionally for FAO Ecological Zones.
The percent of land area that was burned is available annually for the years 2002-2012.
The fire occurrence indicator is derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Burned Area Product (MCD45), which provides monthly maps of burned areas with their approximate date of burn. Fire-affected areas are identified on the basis of the rapid change of surface reflectance values caused by the fire: daily MODIS observations are processed to identify these changes over time. The smallest burned area detectable using this imagery can be as small as 50-100 ha in size, depending on the viewing and topographic conditions, as well as the severity of burning (more severe fires cause more evident changes in the surface reflectance). Burned area data from MODIS are available at global level from 2002 onwards.
The MODIS Burned Area product is aggregated by year to retrieve the annual burned area extent by country and FAO Ecological Zone. The same datasets can be also derived from the Fire Monitoring Tool (FMT) over a set of areas of interest (AOIs); moreover, the web services used for the FMT can be re-used in an external environment to calculate the burned area extent over any AOIs.
Fire is a natural process that plays a major role in shaping our environment and maintaining biodiversity worldwide. However, when fire regimes are altered, ecosystem functions and biodiversity are threatened.
Fires can be caused by both natural and anthropogenic causes. This indicator does not differentiate natural from anthropogenic fires, nor does it imply anything about the causes of the fire regime alteration.
Because some ecosystems require fire for their persistence, fire occurrence in these areas does not necessarily represent a threat. However, long-term changes to fire regimes, may cause fundamental changes to ecosystems. Caution is therefore needed when interpreting fire occurrence relative to specific conservation issues.
For more information, see: Myers, R. L. 2000. Fire in tropical and subtropical ecosystems. Pages 161-173. In: J. K. Brown & J. Smith (eds.). Wildland Fire in Ecosystems: Effects of Fire on Flora. General USDA Forest Service Technical Report RMRS-GTR-24, Ogden, Utah, USA.
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More information about the indicators presented on the Biodiversity Indicators Dashboard is available by contacting us.
Source data are available on-line from the University of Maryland.
The Fire Monitoring Tool of the Joint Research Centre can be used to gather information of fire occurrence and burned areas for a set of areas of interest (AOIs).