Tropical forests are experiencing a growing fire problem driven by climatic change, agricultural expansion and forest degradation. Protected areas are an important feature of forest protection strategies, and sustainable use reserves (SURs) may be reducing fire prevalence since they promote sustainable livelihoods and resource management. However, the use of fire in swidden agriculture, and other forms of land management, may be undermining the effectiveness of SURs in meeting their conservation and sustainable development goals. We analyse MODIS derived hot pixels, TRMM rainfall data, Terra-Class land cover data, socio-ecological data from the Brazilian agro-census and the spatial extent of rivers and roads to evaluate whether the designation of SURs reduces fire occurrence in the Brazilian Amazon. Specifically, we ask (1) a. Is SUR location (i.e., de facto) or (1) b. designation (i.e. de jure) the driving factor affecting performance in terms of the spatial density of fires?, and (2), Does SUR creation affect fire management (i.e., the timing of fires in relation to previous rainfall)? We demonstrate that pre-protection baselines are crucial for understanding reserve performance. We show that reserve creation had no discernible impact on fire density, and that fires were less prevalent in SURs due to their characteristics of sparser human settlement and remoteness, rather than their status de jure. In addition, the timing of fires in relation to rainfall, indicative of local fire management and adherence to environmental law, did not improve following SUR creation. These results challenge the notion that SURs promote environmentally sensitive fire-management, and suggest that SURs in Amazonia will require special attention if they are to curtail future accidental wildfires, particularly as plans to expand the road infrastructure throughout the region are realised. Greater investment to support improved fire management by farmers living in reserves, in addition to other fire users, will be necessary to help ameliorate these threats.
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PLoS ONE 11(2): e0149292
Carmenta, R.; Blackburn, G.A.; Davies, G.; de Sassi, C.; Lima, A.; Parry, L.; Tych, W.; Barlow, J.