Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Beira Fire Scars

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During Mozambique’s dry season—May to October—fires leave burn scars on the landscape. Over a third of the country is affected by fire each year. NASA's Earth Observatory recorded an especially large number of fires in August 2006. The widespread nature of the fires suggests that they may have been intentionally set. Population growth in Mozambique has drastically intensified the need for agricultural land as well as for forestry and wildlife products, thus putting increased pressure on limited resources. Fires have become a primary means of clearing land for cultivation.

The 21 May 2006 satellite image was acquired at the beginning of the 2006 dry season, before many fires had left their mark. The 9 August 2006 image shows the same area roughly 2.5 months later. Pink, dark red, and black fire scars cover much of the landscape.

Many plants in Mozambique are adapted to periodic fire. However, the increasing frequency of fires affects the natural regeneration of vegetation and is believed to be reducing species diversity in Mozambique’s forests. Frequent fires can also increase soil erosion and negatively impact hydrology.
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