A Human-Driven Decline in Global Burned Area

  • Released Tuesday, August 1st, 2017
  • Updated Friday, August 25th, 2023 at 12:42AM
  • ID: 30888

NASA satellite data provide a consistent global record of fire activity. Years with more fire (red) and less fire (blue) highlight how different biomes respond to climate variability. In forests and the humid tropics, most burning occurs in dry years. In more arid savannas, wetter years increase burned area—more rainfall grows more grass, adding fuel for future fires.

During 1998-2015, global burned area declined by nearly 25%. The trend map shows strong declines in burned area (blue) across the savannas and grasslands of Africa, the Eurasian Steppe, and South America. A rapid increase in agriculture, livestock, and population reduced burning in these highly flammable ecosystems. Less burning has benefits, including improved air quality and increasing the land carbon sink. However, less frequent burning may convert open savannas into shrublands or woodlands, eliminating habitat for many endemic species, including iconic lions, elephants, and other large mammals.

Overall Trend Map, with larger fonts for web rather than Hyperwall

Overall Trend Map, with larger fonts for web rather than Hyperwall

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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center


This visualization is based on the following papers: