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Title: Variable carbon losses from recurrent fires in drained tropical peatlands
Authors: Konecny, K.
Ballhorn, U.
Navratil, P.
Jubanski, J.
Page, S. E.
Tansey, Kevin James
Hooijer, A.
Vernimmen, R.
Siegert, F.
First Published: 9-Feb-2016
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Citation: Global Change Biology, 2016, 22(4), pp. 1469-1480
Abstract: Tropical peatland fires play a significant role in the context of global warming through emissions of substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. However, the state of knowledge on carbon loss from these fires is still poorly developed with few studies reporting the associated mass of peat consumed. Furthermore, spatial and temporal variations in burn depth have not been previously quantified. This study presents the first spatially explicit investigation of fire-driven tropical peat loss and its variability. An extensive airborne LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) dataset was used to develop a pre-fire peat surface modeling methodology, enabling the spatially differentiated quantification of burned area depth over the entire burned area. We observe a strong interdependence between burned area depth, fire frequency and distance to drainage canals. For the first time, we show that relative burned area depth decreases over the first four fire events and is constant thereafter. Based on our results, we revise existing peat and carbon loss estimates for recurrent fires in drained tropical peatlands. We suggest values for the dry mass of peat fuel consumed that are 206 t ha(-1) for initial fires, reducing to 115 t ha(-1) for second, 69 t ha(-1) for third and 23 t ha(-1) for successive fires, which are 58% to 7% of the current IPCC Tier 1 default value for all fires. In our study area, this results in carbon losses of 114, 64, 38 and 13 t C ha(-1) for first to fourth fires, respectively. Furthermore, we show that with increasing proximity to drainage canals both burned area depth and the probability of recurrent fires increase and present equations explaining burned area depth as a function of distance to drainage canal. This improved knowledge enables a more accurate approach to emissions accounting and will support IPCC Tier 2 reporting of fire emissions. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
DOI Link: 10.1111/gcb.13186
ISSN: 1354-1013
eISSN: 1365-2486
Version: Post-print
Status: Peer-reviewed
Type: Journal Article
Rights: Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. All rights reserved. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Global Change Biology, 2016, 22(4), pp. 1469-1480, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Description: The file associated with this record is under a 12-month embargo from publication in accordance with the publisher's self-archiving policy, available at The full text may be available through the publisher links provided above.
Appears in Collections:Published Articles, Dept. of Geography

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