A spatio-temporal analysis of ﬁres in the Southern
African Development Community region
M. J. Savage
Received: 17 November 2016 / Accepted: 11 March 2018 / Published online: 16 March 2018
Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract Wildﬁres are considered one of the most common disasters in southern Africa
resulting in a highnumber 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 theSADCregion 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 anthro-
pogenic 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.
Keywords Climate change Á Fire frequency Á Mitigation and monitoring Á MODIS Á
Southern Africa wildﬁres
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-018-
3268-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
& M. J. Savage
Agrometeorology Discipline, Soil-Plant-Atmosphere Continuum Research Unit, School of
Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg,
Nat Hazards (2018) 92:1617–1632