Pinning down the period for increased risk of fire in the African savannas
Devastating wildfires are
known to cause irreparable damage the world over. Studies conducted by CSIR
earth observation experts revealed that determining the end of the growing
season is important to be able to assess the risk of fire spread in the African
The ability to manage the
African savanna has become increasingly important in the advent of climate
change. CSIR principal researcher, Dr Moses Cho reveals that rainfall is the
predominant factor that points to the beginning of the growing season in areas
dominated by grasses, whereas tree cover is the predominant factor that points
to the end of the growing season. In fact, the length of the growing season
increases with increasing tree cover. "And determining when the growing season
ends," he says, "could be important in assessing the risk of fire spread".
The African savannas are
characterised as biodiversity rich, with a mixture of grasses and trees serving
as a habitat for millions of people and wildlife. "The annual cycle of greening
and deterioration plays an important part in the functioning of the biosphere, including
carbon and water cycles, wildlife migration and the spread of fire," he explains.
The African savannas provide numerous ecosystem services that are of high
social and economic importance, such as wildlife tourism, grazing land for
livestock and food provision.
The periods marking the start
and the end of the growing season, as well as the length thereof, determine the
availability of these ecosystem services. He says that "an understanding of the
relative contribution of grasses and trees to this period would enhance our
ability to manage the savannas to the benefit of people and wildlife".
This study forms part of the
global consortium, Ecopotential. Ecopotential is funded by the European Union and has 47 international
collaborators. The Ecopotential partners are tasked with delivering earth
observation products that will contribute to understanding and monitoring
changes to ecosystems while supporting the effective management of protected