Wildfire incidence throughout the Brazilian Pantanal is driven by local climate rather than bovine stocking density

Teodoro, Paulo Eduardo, Maria, Luciano de Souza, Rodrigues, Jéssica Marciella Almeida, de Avila e Silva, Adriana, da Silva, Maiara Cristina Metzdorf, de Souza, Samara Santos, Rossi, Fernando Saragosa, Teodoro, Larissa Pereira Ribeiro, Della-Silva, João Lucas, Delgado, Rafael Coll, Lima, Mendelson, Peres, Carlos A. ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1588-8765 and da Silva Junior, Carlos Antonio (2022) Wildfire incidence throughout the Brazilian Pantanal is driven by local climate rather than bovine stocking density. Sustainability, 14 (16). ISSN 2071-1050

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Abstract

The Pantanal is the world’s largest and most biodiverse continental sheet-flow wetland. Recently, vast tracts of the Pantanal have succumbed to the occurrence of fires, raising serious concerns over the future integrity of the biodiversity and ecosystem services of this biome, including revenues from ecotourism. These wildfires degrade the baseline of natural ecosystems and the ecotourism economy across the region. Local residents (“Pantaneiros”) anecdotally state that extensive cattle herbivory can solve the contemporary flammability problem of the Pantanal by controlling vegetation biomass, thereby preventing or reducing both fuel loads and fires across the region. Here, we examine the covariation between the presence and density of cattle and the incidence of fires across the Brazilian Pantanal. Variables assessed included bovine cattle density, SPI (Standardized Precipitation Index), GPP (Gross Primary Productivity)/biomass estimate, and fire foci along a 19-year time series (2001 to 2019). Our findings show that fire foci across the Pantanal biome are related to climatic variables, such as lower annual precipitation and higher annual drought indices (SPI) rather than to cattle stocking rates. Therefore, the notion of “cattle firefighting”, a popular concept often discussed in some academic circles, cannot be validated because cattle numbers are unrelated to aboveground phytomass. Gross primary productivity further invalidated the “cattle herbivory” hypothesis because GPP was found to be strongly correlated with cattle density but not with the spatial distribution of fires. Fires throughout the Pantanal are currently aggravated by the presence of livestock and result from a combination of extreme weather events and outdated agricultural practices.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding Information: The authors would like to thank the Universidade Federal de Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS), Universidade do Estado do Mato Grosso (UNEMAT), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) (grant numbers: 303767/2020-0 and 309250/2021-8), and the Fundação de Apoio ao Desenvolvimento do Ensino, Ciência e Tecnologia do Estado de Mato Grosso do Sul (FUNDECT) (grant numbers: 88/2021 and 07/2022; SIAFEM numbers: 30478 and 31333). This study was financed in part by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior—Brazil (CAPES) (financial code: 001).
Uncontrolled Keywords: biomass,biome,gross primary production,standardized precipitation index,computer science (miscellaneous),environmental science (miscellaneous),geography, planning and development,energy engineering and power technology,hardware and architecture,management, monitoring, policy and law,building and construction,computer networks and communications,renewable energy, sustainability and the environment,sdg 8 - decent work and economic growth,sdg 2 - zero hunger ,/dk/atira/pure/subjectarea/asjc/1700/1701
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Science > School of Environmental Sciences
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Depositing User: LivePure Connector
Date Deposited: 24 Oct 2022 10:30
Last Modified: 31 Oct 2022 10:30
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/89293
DOI: 10.3390/su141610187

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