Interactions between rainfall, deforestation and fires during recent years in the Brazilian Amazonia.
Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences
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Understanding the interplay between climate and land-use dynamics is a fundamental concern for assessing the vulnerability of Amazonia to climate change. In this study, we analyse satellite-derived monthly and annual time series of rainfall, fires and deforestation to explicitly quantify the seasonal patterns and relationships between these three variables, with a particular focus on the Amazonian drought of 2005. Our results demonstrate a marked seasonality with one peak per year for all variables analysed, except deforestation. For the annual cycle, we found correlations above 90% with a time lag between variables. Deforestation and fires reach the highest values three and six months, respectively, after the peak of the rainy season. The cumulative number of hot pixels was linearly related to the size of the area deforested annually from 1998 to 2004 (r2=0.84, p=0.004). During the 2005 drought, the number of hot pixels increased 43% in relation to the expected value for a similar deforested area (approx. 19000km2). We demonstrated that anthropogenic forcing, such as land-use change, is decisive in determining the seasonality and annual patterns of fire occurrence. Moreover, droughts can significantly increase the number of fires in the region even with decreased deforestation rates. We may expect that the ongoing deforestation, currently based on slash and burn procedures, and the use of fires for land management in Amazonia will intensify the impact of droughts associated with natural climate variability or human-induced climate change and, therefore, a large area of forest edge will be under increased risk of fires.
The data used in this study were acquired as part of the TRMM project jointly sponsored by Japan's National Space Development Agency (NASDA) and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Office of Earth Sciences. We thank the INPE PRODES, DETER and Queimadas programs for making their data and images freely available. This work was supported by a Natural Environment Research Council Urgency grant (NE/D01025X/1).
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Vol. 363, pp. 1779 - 1785
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