|Giriraj, A; Babar, S; Jentsch, A; Sudhakar, S; Murthy, MSR: Tracking fires in India using advanced along track scanning radiometer (A)ATSR data, International Journal of Remote Sensing, 2(2), 591-610 (2010), doi:10.3390/rs2020591|
Forest fires pose a threat more serious than illegal felling in developing countries and are a cause of major concern for environmental security. Fires in tropical forests, though not devastating on a large scale as compared to large and infrequent fires in boreal or Mediterranean systems, still cause loss to biodiversity and economic and monetary value. In India, human-induced forest fires increasingly affect legally protected nature conservation areas. An array of satellite sensors that are now available can be deployed to monitor such events on a global and local scale. The present study uses night-time Advanced Along Track Scanning Radiometer (A)ATSR satellite data from the last nine years to identify high fire-prone zones, fire affected areas in protected zones and the distribution of these incidents in relation to bio-geographic zones. Central India, with its vegetation type that is just right for fire ignition and spread, was observed to be the most severely affected area with maximum fire incidences. The bio-geographic zone comprising this area–such as the Deccan peninsula, which includes provinces like Central Highlands, Eastern Highlands, Central Plateau and Chhota Nagpur–was observed to be the most affected, accounting for approximately 36% of the total fire occurrences during the period 1997–2005. In protected areas, 778 fire incidents were observed within the last eight years. Comparison of (A)ATSR fire locations with MODIS active fire data for the Western Ghats (mainly of tropical evergreen forests and savannahs) and the Eastern Ghats (tropical deciduous) showed a spatial agreement of 72% with a minimum distance between the two products of 100 m. This study focuses on regions in India that are vulnerable to forest fires during specific time-frames and appraises the situation with an aim to minimize such incidents, if not completely stop the fire spread and its consequent destruction and loss. Our main objective is to understand seasonal and spatial variation in fire pattern and to identify zones of frequent burning.
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