Wildfires are considered one of the most common disasters in southern Africa resulting in a high number of human fatalities and financial loss on an annual basis. It is believed that increased population growth, as well as more concentrated settlement planning, is likely to result in increased fire disasters and increased human fatalities as a direct result of wildfires. To better understand the spatial and temporal variations and characteristics of wildfires in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), an 11-year dataset of satellite-derived Active Fire Hotspots was analysed using an open source geographic information system. Results indicate that annual fire frequency for most SADC countries is highly variable. Increasing trends in annual fire frequency were observed in five out of 13 SADC countries with a decrease in annual fire frequency observed in four countries. An additional four countries displayed a somewhat stable trend in fire frequency. Temporally, fires have been observed in all months for the SADC region although distinct fire seasons were observed, largely driven by uni-modal rainfall seasons. The timing, location and strength of rainfall seasons have a marked influence on fire activity depending on the seasonal wet and dry (growing and desiccation) periods. Fire activity in vegetation eco-regions can be attributed to both natural and anthropogenic sources of ignition. However, increased anthropogenic agroforestry activities have resulted in increased fire activity in numerous SADC eco-regions with woodlands, savannahs and montane grassland eco-regions being most prone to wildfires.
Natural Hazards – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 16, 2018
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