Indigenous brigades change the spatial patterns of wildfires, and the influence of climate on fire regimes.

Published online
04 Aug 2022
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Oliveira, M. R. & Ferreira, B. H. S. & Souza, E. B. & Lopes, A. A. & Bolzan, F. P. & Roque, F. O. & Pott, A. & Pereira, A. M. M. & Garcia, L. C. & Damasceno Júnior, G. A. & Costa, A. & Rocha, M. & Xavier, S. & Ferraz, R. A. & Ribeiro, D. B.
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Indigenous people have been managing fire-prone landscapes for millennia, especially in tropical savannas, thereby maintaining carbon stocks and pyrodiversity and ensuring food security. In some indigenous lands in Brazil, fire brigades are composed of indigenous people, integrating their traditional knowledge in Brazilian fire management policies; however, the effectiveness of their management is largely undocumented. Nevertheless, we need to know the effectiveness of indigenous fire brigades and their influence on fire patterns. Here, we evaluate an 18-year historical series of fire patterns and burn scars, comparing periods with and without indigenous brigade activity, to describe the role of indigenous fire brigades in the Kadiwéu Indigenous Territory. In this Indigenous Territory, fire brigades composed of indigenous people have been instituted, trained and maintained by the National Center of Prevention and Combat of Wildfire (PREVFOGO/IBAMA) since 2009. These brigades are responsible for fire management throughout the Kadiwéu Indigenous Territory using controlled burning, prescribed burning and combating wildfires. We found that fire management by the indigenous brigades has reduced fire frequency by 80% in the areas with high fire frequency (over 70% of the analysed time). Management also reduced the size of the area burned by 53% and the influence of climate over the total area burned. According to our models, the area affected by fires is mainly influenced by annual rainfall in the absence of indigenous brigades; in contrast, climatic factors could not explain the variation in the burned area in the period without indigenous brigades. Synthesis and applications. The fire management realized by the indigenous brigades can modify the fire regime. These changes in the fire regime can include: changes in spatial patterns, the magnitude of fires and reduction in the influence of climate on fire regimes. Hence, the management carried out by the indigenous brigades can be considered an important tool for fire management. In addition to demonstrating the importance of programs that integrate traditional indigenous knowledge with fire management policies, such as the Integrated Fire Management (IFM), to construct effective management strategies.

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