Authors: Paul Laris*, CSU Long Beach, Rebecca Jacobs, California State University Long Beach
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Biogeography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: Fire, savanna, greenhouse gases, emissions, Africa
Session Type: Paper
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Muses, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded
African Savanna fires emit large quantities of greenhouse gases. While it is increasing recognized that these fires play an important role in the global carbon cycle, there are few accurate estimates of fire emissions and none from West Africa, the continent’s most active fire region. Most estimates of emissions from savannas contain high levels of uncertainty because they are based on very broad generalizations of complex burned landscapes. To improve emissions estimates, this study used a novel approach to study the burning practices of people who actually set fires in the mesic savanna of Mali. To determine the factors that most influence fire emissions of three key gases--methane, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide--we studied over 100 experimental fires and used a portable gas analyzer to measure emissions at the plot level. Burn plots (vegetation type) and season of burning (early, middle or late) were selected using two methods; the first based on local burning practices and the second based on a random fire regime. Data were collected for fire season, savanna type, grass type, biomass consumed, scorch height, speed of fire front, fire type and ambient air conditions at two sites in Mali. We used multiple regression analysis to determine the key factors effecting the fire intensity, severity and emissions of CO2, CO and CH4. Preliminary results suggest that fire type and fuel load and type are important determinants of fire intensity, severity and emissions. The implications of traditional burning practices on these factors are discussed.