understanding-forest-fires-and-their-effect-on-carbon-emissions-summary

Context: The recent study published in Science of the Total Environment used remote sensing-based models to measure the primary productivity over an area and also looked at burn indices.

Forest fires in India:

  • During 2003–2017, a total of 5,20,861 active forest fire events were detected in India.
  • According to the report of the Forest Survey of India, over 54% of the forest cover in India is exposed to occasional fire.

Parameters used in the study

  • The burn indices 
    • Burn indices help to demarcate the forest fire burn scars using satellite imagery.
    • The spectral differences between healthy vegetation and burnt forest areas can easily be identified and highlighted by remote sensing burn indices. 
    • This can be a promising tool for land resource managers and fire officials.
  • The normalized burn ratio
    • It is an effective burn index commonly used to identify burnt regions in large fire zones.
    • In normal conditions in a forest, healthy vegetation exhibits a very high reflectance in the near-infrared spectral region and considerably low reflectance in the shortwave infrared spectral region.
    • However, these conditions get dismantled and reversed if a fire occurs.

Findings of the study

  • Forest fire hotspots
    • According to the study, the States of northeast India, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand are the most fire prone in India.
  • Carbon emissions during forest fires
    • Previous studies using forecasting models and in-situ observations in western Himalaya had shown a sharp increase of carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and ozone during high fire activity periods
    • The current study noted very high to high carbon emissions in the eastern Himalayan states, western desert region, and lower Himalayan region.
  • Occurrence of high fire intensity at the low altitude Himalayan hilly region
    • According to the study, this phenomenon may be due to the plant species (pine trees) in the area and proximity to villages. 
    • Also, villages make them more susceptible to anthropogenic activities like forest cover clearance, grazing, and so on.
  • Causes of increased episodes of forest fires
    • Studies have shown that the sharp increase in average and maximum air temperature, decline in precipitation, change in land use patterns have caused the increased episodes of forest fires in most of the Asian countries.

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