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Beyond Climatic Variation: Human Disturbances Alter the Effectiveness of a Protected Area to Reduce Fires in a Tropical Peatland

  • Imron, Muhammad Ali1
  • Widyastuti, Kirana2
  • Al Bihad, Dennis1
  • Satria, Ryan Adi1
  • Prayoga, Wiwid1
  • Pradopo, Subyantoro Tri3
  • Suryatmojo, Hatma1
  • Sopha, Bertha Maya4
  • Harrison, Mark E.5, 6
  • Berger, Uta2
  • 1 Faculty of Forestry, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta , (Indonesia)
  • 2 Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Institute of Forest Growth and Computer Sciences, Technische Universität Dresden, Tharandt , (Germany)
  • 3 Balai Konservasi Sumberdaya Alam Kalimantan Barat, Pontianak , (Indonesia)
  • 4 Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Yogyakarta , (Indonesia)
  • 5 Centre for Ecology and Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter , (United Kingdom)
  • 6 School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, University of Leicester, Leicester , (United Kingdom)
Published Article
Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
Frontiers Media S.A.
Publication Date
Apr 14, 2022
DOI: 10.3389/ffgc.2022.788023
  • Forests and Global Change
  • Original Research


Fire is considered a major threat to biodiversity in many habitats and the occurrence of fire has frequently been used to investigate the effectiveness of protected areas. Yet, despite the known importance of tropical peatlands for biodiversity conservation and serious threat that anthropogenically induced fires pose to this ecosystem, the influence of protected area designation on fire occurrence in tropical peatland has been poorly assessed thus far. Our study addresses this knowledge gap through providing a novel assessment of fire patterns from a tropical peatland protected area and surrounding landscape. We investigated the importance of both climatic factors (top-down mechanism) and human interventions (bottom-up mechanism) on fire occurrence through analyzing 20-years (2001–2020) of LANDSAT and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) images of the Padang Sugihan Wildlife Reserve and a 10-km buffer area surrounding this in Sumatra, Indonesia. Fire density was assessed in relation to road and canal construction. Monthly and annual precipitation was compared between wet and dry years. The reserve was effective in limiting fire compared to surrounding landscapes only in wet years. We revealed that peat fire occurrence in the protected area and buffer zone was not due to climatic factors alone, with distance from canals and roads also contributing toward fire occurrence. Our results suggest that it is essential to address tropical peatland fire processes at a landscape level, particularly at the surroundings of protected areas, in order to increase the effectiveness of fire protection, improve fire risk classification maps, and conserve threatened tropical peatland wildlife such as the Sumatran elephant.

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