Southern African Fire Regimes as Revealed by Remote Sensing

Document Type


Publication Date



Here we integrate spatial information on annual burnt area, fire frequency, fire seasonality, fire radiative power and fire size distributions to produce an integrated picture of fire regimes in southern Africa. The regional patterns are related to gradients of environmental and human controls of fire, and compared with findings from other grass-fuelled fire systems on the globe. The fire regime differs across a gradient of human land use intensity, and can be explained by the differential effect of humans on ignition frequencies and fire spread. Contrary to findings in the savannas of Australia, there is no obvious increase in fire size or fire intensity from the early to the late fire season in southern Africa, presumably because patterns of fire ignition are very different. Similarly, the importance of very large fires in driving the total annual area burnt is not obvious in southern Africa. These results point to the substantial effect that human activities can have on fire in a system with high rural population densities and active fire management. Not all aspects of a fire regime are equally impacted by people: fire-return time and fire radiative power show less response to human activities than fire size and annual burned area.

Publication Title

International Journal of Wildland Fire





DOI of Published Version



CSIRO Publishing