- BIOGECO, INRAE, F-33610, Cestas, France
- Conservation and restoration, Forest ecosystem services and forest conservation, Population dynamics and genetics of forest trees
Fire and forest loss in the Dominican Republic during the 21st Century
Spatio-temporal fire and forest loss patterns in the Dominican RepublicRecommended by Pauline Garnier-Géré based on reviews by Kevin Cianfaglione and 2 anonymous reviewers
Fires in the Anthropocene, whether natural or human-induced, are among the main factors of deforestation, threatening forest resilience and biodiversity (Kelly et al. 2020). Fire events have also increased in occurrence and severity worldwide in the past decade (e.g. Whitman et al. 2022, Ribeiro et al. 2020). In this context, we need to better understand the links between fire occurrence and their impact on forest loss, especially in countries where such knowledge is lacking.
The work by Martinez-Batlle addresses this need as it thoroughly describes forest loss and fire patterns across the forests of the Dominican Republic (DR), and systematically tests their spatial and temporal correlations across the DR regions since 2001. To this end, the author combines two independent databases from NASA: the Global Forest Change 2000-2018 data service, and remotely sensed data on fire/hotspot occurrence. The author then provides a state-of-the-art analysis pipeline that first shows significant spatial autocorrelations in both forest loss and fire density over the whole period, and each year across the period. Detailed maps of zonal statistics across hexagonal grids also illustrate clusters of either high or low forest loss and fire points, and distinguish small or large clearings. Second, these spatial dependencies are accounted for in spatial autoregressive models, and congruent patterns of forest loss and fire density are shown across the 2001-2018 period in the DR. This is consistent with the initial working hypothesis of a link between deforestation and slash and burn agriculture. Third, detailed time-series analyses and modelling show common cyclical patterns for forest loss areas in large clearings, number of small clearings, and fire density in the first 14 years, with no increasing trends. In contrast, fire density does not predict extensive forest loss in the eastern half of the country for most years. Finally, yearly maps clearly depict uncontrolled wildfires that impacted larger areas in recent years in both the central and southern mountain ranges of the DR.
This work, therefore, provides a solid, detailed, and rigorous account of the current status of forest loss across the DR, and of its causes, either from recurrent fires due to shifting agriculture or from farming linked to tourism expansion. These results could be very useful for designing strategies adapted to each particular zone of the DR, for preventing human-induced fires or managing wildfires, and for planning post-fire reforestation. This is true, especially for core protected areas where an increasing trend of forest loss is identified in the last 8 years (up to 25% in some mountainous and inaccessible areas of the DR). In those areas, the author suggests implementing a natural regeneration program. Indeed, recent scientists’ warnings stress that fires should be accounted for when planning reforestation for climate change mitigation (Leverkus et al. 2022), with evidence in different ecosystems, that natural regeneration with local seed banks would benefit their post-fire recovery. As proposed by the author, this new knowledge for the DR should also help develop policies for managing forest fires and biodiversity, which are lacking in areas close to tourism facilities. More generally, this study offers methods and graphical representations that are likely to inspire future work with similar databases in other countries where data are scarce, on either spatial trends or temporal evolution of forest cover, or fire activities, or both.
Kelly LT, Giljohann KM, Duane A, Aquilué N, et al. (2020). Fire and biodiversity in the Anthropocene. Science, 370(6519), eabb0355. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abb0355
Leverkus AB, Thorn S, Lindenmayer DB, Pausas JG (2022) Tree planting goals must account for wildfires. Science 376(6593): 588-589. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abp8259
Martinez Batlle JR (2022) Fire and forest loss in the Dominican Republic during the 21st Century. bioRxiv, 2021.06.15.448604, ver. 4 peer-reviewed and recommended by Peer Community in Forest and Wood Science. https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.06.15.448604
Ribeiro LM, Viegas DX, Almeida M, McGee TX, et al. (2020) 2 - Extreme wildfires and disasters around the world: lessons to be learned. In F. Tedim, V. Leone, T.K. McGee (Eds.), Extreme Wildfire Events and Disasters, Elsevier Inc. 31-pp. 51. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-815721-3.00002-3
Whitman et al. (2022) Climate-induced fire regime amplification in Alberta, Canada. Environ. Res. Lett. 17(5): 055003. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ac60d6