Fire on GhG and Aerosol Emissions in Southeast Asia


The Role of Fire on Greenhouse Gas and Aerosol Emissions and Land Use and Cover Change in Southeast Asia:
Ecological Background and Research Needs

International Conference on Science and Technology for the Assessment of Global Environmental Change and its Impacts on the Indonesian Maritime Continent, Jakarta, Indonesia, 10-12 November 1997


Dr. Johann G. Goldammer
Fire Ecology and Biomass Burning Research Group Max Planck Institute for Chemistry c/o Freiburg University, Freiburg, Germany

in cooperation with

German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) (German Development Corporation), Integrated Forest Fire Management Project (IFFM), Samarinda, East Kalimantan

Key Words: Dipterocarpaceae, fire, charcoal, climate change, climate oscillations, fire damage assessment, atmospheric chemistry.

1. Introduction
2. Fire in the Lowland Dipterocarp Rain Forest

2.1 Impacts of Climatic Variability on Fire Regimes
2.2 Modern and Historic ENSO Events and Wildfires
2.3 The Wildfires of 1982-83
2.4 Damage of the Fire Episodes After 1982-83

3. Fire in Seasonal Forests
4. Fire Climax Pine Forests in South Asia’s Tropical Submontane and Montane Altitudes: In Competition with Dipterocarps
5. Crop Residual Burning, Weed and Succession Control, and Waste Disposal

6. Other Smoke and Aerosol Sources from Biofuel Burning
7. Regional Initiatives in Fire and Smoke Management and Policy Development

7.1 National Indonesian Fire Management and Related Projects
7.2 Regional Initiatives on “Transboundary Haze Pollution” in the South East Asian Region

8. Research Initiatives

8.1 Pre-1997 Research
8.2 Proposed post-1997 Research Programs

9. Conclusions


The application of fire in land-use systems and wildfires in forests and other vegetation in Indonesia and neighbouring countries within the South East Asian region have reached unprecedented levels and have been leading to severe environmental problems and impacts on society. Traditional slash-and-burn systems in the shifting agriculture mode are increasingly replaced by modern large-scale conversion of forest into permanent agricultural systems which are partially maintained by fire, and into forest plantations. Wildfires escaping from land-use fires are becoming more and more regular. The impact of land-use fires and wildfires are detrimental to biodiversity and the regional atmospheric chemistry. In Indonesia and within the South East Asian / ASEAN region a joint, concerted approach is needed to cope with the problem of transboundary pollution caused by vegetation burning. However, since fire is an essential tool in land use in the tropics a response strategy must be developed in which the benefits from fire use would be encouraged, at the same time the negative impacts of fire be reduced. National and regional fire management plans and policies must take into consideration the complexity and diversity of fire uses in different vegetation types and land-use systems.

1. Introduction

This paper provides background data on the fire environment in South East Asia. This paper is an updated version of previous analyses (Goldammer and Seibert 1990, Goldammer et al. 1996, Goldammer 1997). It summarizes the basics of fire ecology, fire occurrence, and fire-generated smoke problems in SE Asia and provides the background of international initiatives in which national Indonesian projects and an ASEAN-wide program in fire research and management could play an important role. These activities could assist in meeting the demands of various international initiatives and agreements on protection of biodiversity and the global atmosphere as well as the reduction of natural disasters which threaten the functioning and sustainability of ecosystems and the wellbeing of societies.

Fire has been present in the SE Asian biota since the Pleistocene. Long-term climate variability (glacial vs. non-glacial climate) and short-term climate oscillations caused by the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event have repeatedly created conditions that make even rain forest subjected to wildfires. The occurrence of wildfires is increasing with modern land-use changes. Forest degradation and repeated fires lead to the formation of fire climax grasslands of low productivity and short-return interval fires. In monsoon forests of mainland South Asia annual fires during the dry season have shaped the composition and productivity of this forest environment by selecting fire-tolerant species. Severe problems of land degradation (erosion, loss of nutrients) are the consequence of fires in these seasonally dry forests. Fire protection (fire exclusion) leads to a progressive development towards a more species-rich forest ecosystem. Fire climax pine forests are found in all SE Asian mountain regions. Burning of agricultural crop residuals, especially rice straw burning, add to the smoke generated by conversion fires and wildfires.

Furthermore this paper highlights the importance of fire-generated emissions from SE Asia on the regional atmosphere and on global biogeochemical cycles. The South East Asian Fire Experiment (SEAFIRE), a planned research programme under the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), intends to clarify the origin, mechanisms of transport and impacts of fire emissions on the regional and global atmosphere.

A strong pan-ASEAN Fire Management Program is proposed. This program should take advantage and coordinate all national fire management programs in the region, through a Regional technical Assistance Project and should build on and coordinate with various other initiatives in fire and smoke management and related research.


2. Fire in the Lowland Dipterocarp Rain Forest

2.1 Impacts of Climatic Variability on Fire Regimes

It is generally recognized that during the last Ice Age the transfer of water from the oceans to continental ice caps lowered the global sea level by at least 85 m (CLIMAP, 1976).

Besides exposing land, especially on the Sunda Shelf, the drop in ocean water levels may have caused the development of an overall arid climate at that time. In the highlands of Malesia, reliable palynological information and radiocarbon dating have clarified the climatic and vegetational history since the last glaciation, as well as the history of human impacts (Flenley 1979b; Morley 1982; Maloney 1985; Flenley 1988; Newsome 1988; Newsome and Flenley 1988; Flenley 1992). In his holistic appraisal of the geologic and biogeographic history of the equatorial rain forest, Flenley (1979a) suggests that compared to present conditions the most acute differences in the Quaternary climate of equatorial Indo-Malesia occurred during the period from ca. 18,000 to 15,000 before present (B.P.). At that time, for example, the upper forest limit in the New Guinea highlands was 1700 m below its present level, while the mean temperature was 8-12° C lower.

Although palynological evidence from the tropical lowlands is still very scarce (Flenley 1982), it must be assumed that lowland vegetation was generally that of areas with a more pronounced dry season. Lowland pollen analyses from West Malesia are, or appear to be, of the Holocene age (Maloney 1985), and no data from East Kalimantan are available.

However, a study available from South Kalimantan may serve as an auxiliary argument for the climatic change which occurred during the Holocene. Morley (1981) suggests that the ombrogenous peat development of a peat swamp in the Sebangau River region had been initiated by a change from a more continental to a less seasonal climate during the mid-Holocene. This implies that the lowland climate of East Kalimantan, which today is still slightly seasonal (Whitmore 1984), must have been considerably drier within the period between the last glaciation and the development of today’s rain forest climate. At that time, fuel characteristics and flammability of the prevailing vegetation must have created conditions suitable for the occurrence of wildfires.

First evidence of ancient wildfires in East Kalimantan was found by Goldammer and Seibert (1989, 1990). 14C-dates of soil charcoal recovered along an East-West transect between Sangkulirang at the Strait of Makassar, and about 75 km inland, showed that fires had occurred between ca. 17,510 and ca. 350 B.P. These events must have occurred in situ, as upper-slope hill terrain was selected for sampling in order to avoid dating of charcoal dislocated by sedimentation, deposits of which were found in the lower areas of Kutai National Park (Shimokawa 1988) and dated ca. 1040 B.P. (Goldammer and Seibert 1989). Charcoal residues suggesting ancient forest fires were also found in several places in Sabah (Marsh, pers. comm.) and Brunei (Becker, pers.comm.).

The fire dates of 350 to 1280 B.P., as presented in the study, reveal that wildfires occurred not only during the dry Pleistocene, but also after the present wet, rain forest climate stabilized, at about 10,000 to 7000 B.P. These fires can be explained by periodic droughts such as those caused by the modern El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) complex.

The ENSO phenomenon, which has been comprehensively described (Troup 1965; Julian and Chervin 1978; Philander 1983a; Harger 1995 a,b), is regarded as one of the most striking examples of inter-annual climate variability on a global scale. It is caused by complicated atmospheric-oceanic coupling which is not yet entirely understood. The event is initiated by the Southern Oscillation, which is the variation of pressure difference between the Indonesian low and the South Pacific tropical high. During a low pressure gradient, the westward trade winds are weakened, resulting in the development of positive sea surface temperature anomalies along the coast of Peru and most of the tropical Pacific Ocean. The inter-tropical convergence zone and the South Pacific convergence zone then merge in the vicinity of the dateline, causing the Indonesian low to shift its position into that area. Subsequently, during a typical ENSO event, the higher pressure over Malesia leads to a decrease in rainfall. The severity of the dry spells depends on the amplitude and persistence of the climate oscillations.

In the rain forest biome these prolonged droughts drastically change the fuel complex and the flammability of the vegetation. Once the precipitation falls below 100 mm per month, and periods of two or more weeks without rain occur, the forest vegetation sheds its leaves progressively with increasing drought stress. In addition, the moisture content of the surface fuels is lowered, while the downed woody material and loosely packed leaf-litter layer contribute to the build-up and spread of surface fires. Aerial fuels such as desiccated climbers and lianas become fire ladders potentially resulting in crown fires or “torching” of single trees.

Peat swamp forests found in the lowlands of Borneo represent another fuel type (for details on organic layer dynamics: see Brady 1997). With increasing precipitation deficit and a lowering of the water table in the peat swamp biome, the organic layers progressively dry out. During the 1982-83 ENSO, various observations in East Kalimantan confirmed a desiccation of more than 1 to 2 m (Johnson 1984); preliminary estimates during the 1997 ENSO reveal that desiccation was less than 1982-83. While the spread of surface and ground fires in this type of organic terrain is not severe, deep burning of organic matter leads to toppling of trees and a complete removal of standing biomass. It is further reported that smouldering organic fires may persist throughout the subsequent rainfall period, to be reactivated as an ignition source in the next dry spell.

The climatic variability during the past 18 millennia, with long-term changes and short-term oscillations, may give sufficient explanation for environmental prerequisites for wildfire occurrence. However, the origins of the fires are not clear and cannot be interpreted through the 14C-data of charcoal. Under the drier and more seasonal climate of the last glaciation, early anthropogenic fires and frequent lightning fires may have played a role similar to the conditions in today’s deciduous savanna forests of continental South Asia (see Stott et al. 1990). Volcanism as another natural fire source may have influenced vegetation development on Southeast Asian islands with high volcanic activities, e.g., the highlands of Sumatra and Java.

Long-lasting fires in coal seams extending to, or near, the surface, are found in various rain forest sites in East Kalimantan and are another important natural fire source (Goldammer and Seibert 1989; Bird 1995). It has been assumed that all of the ca. 150 coal seam fires known to be burning at present (White 1992) were ignited by the 1982-1983 wildfires. This is questioned by Goldammer and Seibert (1989), since there are numerous oral reports of burning coal seams made before in 1982-1983 drought. In the late 19th century the Norwegian explorer Bock (1881) reported that Modang people consider burning of coal seams going on “since the memory of man”.

Goldammer and Seibert (1989) focused their research on dating ancient coal seam fires by investigating the “baking” effects of subsurface fires on sediment or soil layers on top of the coal seams. These effects of old, meanwhile extinguished, coal seam fires can still be seen today. The material, locally called “baked mudstone” is utilized at present for road construction purposes. Thermoluminescence analysis of burnt clay, collected on top of an extinguished coal seam in the vicinity of active coal fires, proved a fire event 13,200 to 15,300 years B.P. It is assumed that ancient coal fires were ignited by lightning.

The edges of the burning coal seams progress slowly through the ground of the rain forest and cannot be extinguished by water. Even a water body cascading over the edge of a burning coal seam cannot affect the combustion process, as observed by Goldammer and Seibert (1989). During the 1987 ENSO, the authors witnessed the ignition of a forest fire by a burning coal seam and its spread into the Bukit Soeharto forest reserve. These observations, together with the data on ancient fires and the longevity of coal fire occurrence, suggest that burning coal seams represent a permanent fire source from which wildfires spread whenever a drought occurs and fuel conditions are suitable for carrying a fire. This interaction between climatic variability, fire sources, and wildfires seems to be unique. However, further investigation of this phenomenon may well help to clarify the role and impact of long-return interval disturbances, like fire, in the evolutionary process of the rain forest biome.


2.2 Modern and Historic ENSO Events and Wildfires

2.2.1 The 1982-83 and the 1997 ENSO

The 1982-1983 drought in Malesia was the result of an extreme ENSO (Philander 1983b). In north and east Borneo, the decrease in rainfall began in July 1982 and lasted until April 1983, interrupted only by a short rainy period in December 1982. Monthly precipitation dropped below critical values along the coast and up to 200 km inland (see Goldammer and Seibert 1990; Walsh 1995). In Samarinda, near the east coast of East Kalimantan, the rainfall between July 1982 and April 1983 was only 35% of the mean annual precipitation. Further inland, rainfall recordings from Kota Bangun (100 km from the coast) and Melak (150 km from the coast) still show critical deficits. The precipitation did not fall below the critical margin of 100 mm in Long Sungai Barang, Belungan (300 km inland). These recordings support Brünig’s (1969) observation from Sarawak, that drought stress occurs more frequently in coastal areas than in the hinterland.

Rainfall conditions in northern Borneo during the 1982-1983 drought were similar. Five stations in Sabah recorded an average precipitation decrease of 60% (Woods 1987, 1989). No significant drought and no fires were observed in Sarawak at that time (Marsh pers. comm.).

Berlage (1957) found that between 1830 and 1953, about 93% of all droughts in Indonesia occurred during an ENSO event. According to an evaluation of precipitation data since 1940 (Leighton, 1984), most of the 11 droughts recorded in 1941/42, 1951, 1957, 1961, 1963, 1969, 1972, 1976, 1979/80, 1982/83, and 1987 accompanied an ENSO. The worst droughts during that period were in 1941/1942, 1972, and 1982-1983, while the 1961 drought occurred independently of an ENSO event, and the 1965 ENSO did not cause drought in Indonesia.

At the time of writing this paper no precipitation data from Indonesia and neighbouring countries have been evaluated for the whole 1997-98 ENSO event.


2.2.2 Historic ENSO Events

The first documentation of the impact of an extreme drought in East Kalimantan is provided by Bock (1881). The Norwegian zoologist travelled through the lowlands of the Kutai district of East Kalimantan 1878 and reported drought and famine which had occurred in the year before his visit. He noted that about one third of the tree population in the forests around Muara Kaman in the Middle Mahakam area died due to the drought. More recent observations in various peat swamp forests of the Middle Mahakam Area of East Kalimantan confirm that significant disturbances of this ecosystem must have occurred around 80-100 years ago (Weinland 1983). The rainfall records of Jakarta (Java) 1877/78 explain these observations: between May 1877 and February 1878, rainfall in Jakarta was reduced by two thirds; a second severe precipitation deficit followed from July to December 1878 (Kiladis and Diaz 1986). An extensive analysis of historic ENSO variations and drought in Indonesia and the Philippines is given by Harger (1995a,b).

Bock (1881) did not report any forest fires. Nevertheless, there is evidence of historic forest fires in East Kalimantan by narrative tradition. Goldammer and Seibert (1990) were informed by Amansyah (pers. comm.) that his grandmother reported fires occurring in the area of Muara Lawa on the Kedang Pahu river during that period. Also Grabowsky (1890) mentioned a forest fire on two mountains, Batu Sawar and Batu Puno, in the central part of South Kalimantan, about 70 km inland, which had occurred some years before his visit in 1881-1884. These two mountains, according to Grabowsky, had been totally deforested by the fire, and the approximate date of the fire coincides with Carl Bock’s remarks on the severe drought in East Kalimantan. Other sources and assessments of the 1877-78 drought are compiled by WALSH (1995).

In 1914-15, forest fires were again reported from Borneo. Published records were found for Sabah, where an area of 80,000 ha of rain forest and its superficial peat soil layer were destroyed by fire after an exceptionally dry period (Cockburn 1974). This area now forms the Sook plain grassland of Sabah. Amansyah (pers.comm.) also reported fires, during the same period, in the Muara Lawa area. Endert (1927) confirms these reports in his reference to fires which had occurred about 10 years before his visit to East Kalimantan in 1925. According to the farmer Rajab (personal comm.) of Modang (Pasir District of East Kalimantan) serious fires swept through his farmland from the coast, in the same year, before proceeding inland. Rainfall records from Balikpapan, and Samarinda close to the east coast of East Kalimantan, and from Long Iram, about 180 km inland, corrobate a severe drought in 1914-1915 (details in Goldammer and Seibert 1990).

Severe forest fires in Brunei following a drought of six weeks in 1958 were observed by Brünig (1971). Smaller fires in lowland dipterocarp forests and in Dacrydium elatum forests were recorded for 1969 and 1970 in Sabah and Brunei by Fox (1976, cited by Woods 1987). Brünig (1971) has also described an exceptional drought at this time, but no fires.

The meteorological information from Sandakan (Sabah) is of particular interest because of the availability of unusually long records: 1879-present, with two gaps in 1897-1901 and 1942-46 (Walsh 1995). The data indicate two drought-prone epochs, between 1879 and 1915 and since 1968, with a drought-free period between 1916 and 1967. Long droughts of at least four months occurred five times in the period 1879-1915 (in 1885, 1903, 1905, 1906, 1915) and again on five occasions in the recent period 1968-92 (in 1969, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1992) (Walsh 1995).

A recent thorough analysis of ENSO variations and drought occurrence in Indonesia and the Philippines are giver by Harger (1995a,b).


2.3 The Wildfires of 1982-83

2.3.1 First Damage Assessments

The wildfire scene in Borneo in 1982/83 was set by the extreme drought and by numerous slash-and burn land-clearing activities which resulted in fires burning out of control. The extent and the immediately visible impact of these fires have been described by several authors and teams (Wirawan and Hadiyono 1983; Johnson 1984; Leighton 1984; Lennertz and Panzer 1984; Malingreau et al. 1985; Woods 1987, 1989).

It is assumed that the overall land area of Borneo affected by fires exceeded 5×106 ha. In East Kalimantan alone, ca. 3.5×106 ha were affected by drought and fire. Of the total area, 0.8×106 ha was primary rain forest, 1.4×106 ha logged-over forest, 0.75×106 ha secondary forest (mainly in the vicinity of settlement areas), and 0.55×106 ha peat swamp biome (Lennertz and Panzer 1984).

One of the first aerial and ground surveys of the fire damage was carried out in a burned area in the Kutai National Park, west of heavily logged and farmed areas (Leighton 1984). It was found that fire damage was higher in secondary forest than in primary forest, although the degree of damage varied greatly. The fires had swept twice through the ITO timber concession southwest of the Kutai National Park, the first causing defoliation of many trees and lianas; the second completely burning this accumulated litter. No surviving trees were observed in areas which had burned twice.

In his 1983 ground survey of the northern part of the National Park near the Meentoko research station, Leighton (1984) found that the primary forest had been badly damaged. He was unable to report any unburned primary forest on hills, ridges, or slopes which could have served as a control plot to distinguish damage by drought or fire. He inferred that the drier soils of the hillside and hilltop areas, and also their shallowness (as argued by Whitmore [1984]), could be an important factor determining the water deficit during prolonged droughts.

Narrow belts (width 5 to 20 m) of unburned primary forest flanking streams were also observed, but these account for only 5-10% of the total area. In the burned areas, 99% of the trees below 4 cm DBH had died, although about 10% were resprouting from the ground. Of the trees with 20-25 cm DBH, 50% had died and 20-35% of trees above 25 cm DBH. Among the larger trees which had died, only Bornean ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri T&B) was observed resprouting from the ground. Lianas and strangling figs had been virtually eliminated from burned parts of the forest, apparently being particularly sensitive to drought.

Wirawan (1983) made a ground survey in a less damaged area in the southern part of the National Park. Fire extended there about 30-40 km from the coast, but was able to sweep further inland wherever previous logging activities had produced suitable fuels, particularly in the surroundings of logging roads. The healthiest areas were in the southwest of the Park further inland. Dead stems of emergent trees sticking out of the canopy have apparently died from drought, not from fire. Canopy and subcanopy had regreened in these areas, while in burned forests, the subcanopy was usually defoliated due to heat rising from the fire.

Wirawans’s (1983) unpublished report shows that in unlogged, unburned dipterocarp forest the effect of the long drought period was more severe on larger trees than on smaller ones: 70% of the trees above 60 cm DBH were dead, while only 40% in the DBH class of 30 to 60 cm, and 20-25% in the class below 30 cm respectively. Drought has produced a diameter distribution similar to that in an unburned logged-over dipterocarp forest in that area.

Only 15% of trees in all diameter classes had died in unlogged, unburned ironwood forest. Dead individuals were mainly Shorea spp. and others, but ironwood was able to survive even on ridges. In unlogged, but burned ironwood forest, damage occurred particularly on smaller individuals: 75% of the trees below 5 cm DBH and 50% of the trees from 5 to 10 cm DBH were dead, compared with only 8-15% of the trees above 10 cm DBH. Many of the latter, however, sustained bark damage and may die in the near future.

Fire intensity in previously logged areas was directly related to the intensity of logging. The fires were severe but did not completely destroy moderately logged stands where, after the fire, a few trees with green foliage could still be observed, although spaced and scattered.

In heavily logged forest areas, where remaining trees ware widely spaced, shrub had formed a thick ground cover, providing an excellent biomass source for the fires after the extensive drought. Here the fuel consumption was more complete.

Lennertz and Panzer (1984) made several ground surveys in seven timber concessions throughout the burned area, confirming the findings of Wirawan (1983) and Leighton (1984) on a larger-area scale. The damage was generally heavier in logged-over than in primary forests.


2.3.2 Natural Regeneration of the Dipterocarp Rain Forest of East Kalimantan after the Wildfires of 1982-83: Results of a Comprehensive Study

A series of studies on the regeneration of the fire-affected rain forest were conducted in the mid-1980’s and reviewed by Goldammer and Seibert (1990). This synopsis included the investigations on a research plot established before the fire (Riswan 1976, 1982) and re-evaluated after the fire in 1983 and 1987 (Suyono 1984; Boer et al. 1988a,b; Riswan and Yusuf 1986), and the work conducted by Boer (1984), Noor (1985), Hatami (1987), Boer and Matius (1988), Myagi et al. (1988) and Tagawa et al. (1988).

In 1988-89 a comprehensive research project on the cause and effects of the forest fires of the 1982-83 fire season in East Kalimantan was carried out on behalf of the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO). The study was conducted by the Forest Research Institute, Samarinda with technical assistance by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ). On behalf of GTZ, the DFS Deutsche Forstinventur Service implemented the study.

The results of the study “Investigation of the Steps Needed to Rehabilitate the Areas of East Kalimantan Seriously Affected by Fire” were compiled in twelve individual reports. They deal with the cause and effects of the fire, give a damage assessment and provide proposals for the rehabilitation of the burned areas (summary in Schindele 1989; detailed bibliographical data of the reports are given at the end of the list of references). Also steps for future fire prevention are suggested. An important and very valuable result of the study are the vegetation classification and the forest rehabilitation maps at a scale of 1:250.000. The most important results are summarized below.


Study area

Study area was the Mahakam basin which was most seriously affected by drought and forest fires. The mapped study area has a total size of 4.7×106 ha and stretches from the east coast of Borneo to the mountainous areas in the centre and in the north. The southern boundary is formed by a line from Balikpapan to Long Iram.


Methodology of the study

In the study area a two-phase forest inventory was implemented. During the first phase the vegetation of the study area was stratified with the help of satellite imagery:

  • SPOT XS multispectral imagery, resolution 20×20 m (1987/88)
  • SPOT panchromatic imagery, resolution 10×10 m (1989)
  • Landsat MSS, resolution 80×80 m (1983-84 and 1987).

Areas not covered by satellite scenes or where scenes were obstructed by clouds were investigated with the help of video remote sensing.

Within the second phase, a forest inventory was conducted in the field. The inventory design applied was a double cluster system of triangular shape. The individual clusters were distributed randomly within the different strata. Besides the data on vegetation, for every individual sample plot additional information on site (soil, topography) and other parameters (forest condition prior to fire, fire intensity, year of logging, etc.) was collected. Altogether 96 clusters were placed throughout the study areas, and a total of 1663 individual sample plots were inventoried.



Cause and extent of the fire

Within the study area the actual area affected by fire was ca. 3.2×106 ha of which 2.7×106 ha were tropical rainforests. Table 1 shows the distribution of the different vegetation classes based on satellite imagery analysis. The area was classified according to fire damage classes (Tab.2). The interpretation of the inventory data revealed the following results:

Tab.1. Distribution of vegetation classes

Vegetation Classification Area in
(x1000 ha)
(%) Burned
(%) Unburned
(%) Undisturbed Forests 410 9 11 89 Lightly Disturbed Forests 1096 23 58 42 Moderately Disturbed Forests 984 21 84 16 Heavily Disturbed Forests 727 15 88 12 Plantations 1) 27 1 96 4 Total Lowland Forests 3244 69 67 33 Kerangas Forest 40 1 45 55 Limestone Hills & Rocks 43 1 56 44 Undisturbed Swamp Forests 181 4 17 83 Disturbed Swamp Forests 385 8 97 3 Open Swamps (Brush etc.) 110 2 82 18 Brackish Swamp 22 0 23 77 Tidal Forests 41 1 0 100 Total Forest Vegetation 4066 86 67 33 Shifting Cultivation 2) 387 8 85 15 Perm. Cultivated Areas, Settlements 213 5 69 31 Lakes and Rivers 67 1 0 100 Total Other Land-use 667 14 79 3) 21 Total Mapped Area 4733 100 67 33


1) That means 96% of the area which were plantations in 1988 (SPOT) were burned areas in 1983; it does not mean that 96% of plantations were burned
2) For shifting cultivation same as 1)
3) Excluding water surface

Tab.2. Definition of fire intensity classes

Fire intensity Criteria 0 No fire No signs of damage 1 Low Sights of damage only in understory 2 Moderate Part of overstory damaged 3 High Overstory completely burned

Forests on sites with low water retention capacity were most seriously affected by fire. This refers especially to peat swamp forests, heath forests (Kerangas), forests on limestone hills and rocks (Tab.1) and all other forests on shallow soils (Tab.3).

On the other hand, logged-over forests were particularly affected by fire (Tab.4), especially those growing on drought-sensitive sites. There is a close correlation between the year of logging and fire intensity (Tab.5). Especially forests which had been logged shortly before the fire event were very seriously damaged. Finally, forests in the vicinity of settlements and along rivers and roads were particularly affected by the fire.

Tab.3. Fire intensity and soil depth in number ofsample plots and in percent of each soil depth category

Fire intensity Depth of soil in cm 0-14 15-29 30-59 60-99 >99 No fire 2 (3%) 7 (13%) 14 (5%) 44 (4%) 69 (27%) Low 20 (29%) 5 (10%) 86 (31%) 221 (22%) 53 (21%) Moderate 18 (27%) 17 (32%) 66 (23%) 347 (34%) 76 (30%) High 28 (41%) 24 (45%) 113 (41%) 398 (40%) 55 (22%) Total 68 (100%) 53 (100%) 279 (100%) 1010 (100%) 253 (100%)

Corrected continguence coefficient is 0.36
Chi2 positive on 0.1% level

Tab.4. Forest condition prior to fire and fire intensity

Fire intensity Forest condition prior to fire Primary logged – over N % N % No fire 83 5 (18) 53 3 ( 4) Low 127 8 (27) 258 16 (22) Moderate 110 7 (24) 414 25 (34) High 141 8 (31) 477 28 (40) Total 461 28 (100) 1202 72 (100)

Corrected continguence coefficient is 0.39
Chi2 positive on 0.1% level
The number in brackets is the percentage of plots within one forest type

Tab.5. Year of logging and fire intensity

Fire intensity Year of logging <74 74-75 76-77 80-81 82-83 >83 No fire 71 0 1 0 2 36 Low 120 27 55 27 34 51 Moderate 126 50 78 87 40 56 High 172 43 113 114 14 57 Total 489 120 247 228 90 200

Corrected continguence coefficient is 0.35
Chi2 positive on 0.1% level


Effects of the fire

The analysis of the inventory results for different tree species allowed the following classification according to their sensitivity to fire:

Species promoted by fire

Euphorbiaceae are definitely the family mainly promoted by fire in a linear relation; the higher the fire intensity, the higher was their importance value compared to the other families. Particularly Macaranga triloba and Macaranga gigantea were promoted. Macaranga spp. and other Euphorbiaceae are, in general, very light demanding and fast growing. A diameter increment of 2 cmxyr-1 is quite common. Most of the Euphorbiaceae belong to the pioneer species. Other species promoted by fire are Moraceae (Ficus spp.), Datiscaceae (Octomeles spp.), Leeaceae (Leea indica), Rubiaceae (Anthocephalus spp. and Nauclea spp.), Sonneratiaceae, Ulmaceae (Trema spp.) and Verbenaceae (Vitex spp.).

Fire-resistant species

Species were classified as fire resistant when they appeared in the different strata independent of fire intensity. The following genera and species belong to this category: Lauraceae (e.g., Eusideroxylon zwageri), Caesalpinaceae, Ebenaceae (Diospyros spp.) and Palmae. The natural regeneration of these species, however, is not favoured by fire.

Species suppressed by fire

The most important family in East Kalimantan, the Dipterocarpaceae is clearly suppressed by fire due to thin bark, high content of flammable resin, and lacking resprouting capability. However, in lightly disturbed forests where seed trees survived, natural regeneration of Dipterocarps was observed. Other genera supressed by fire are Anarcardiaceae, Annonaceae, Burseracea, Fagaceae, Melastomaceae, Meeliaceae, Myristicaceae, Myrtaceae, Sapindinaceae and Sapotaceae.

Table 6 depicts the 10 most important families according to their rank (based on the abundance) on sites affected by various fire intensities. Surviving trees were damaged by fire to various degrees, especially the Dipterocarps. Tree vitality (percentage of crown still in leaf; Tab.7) was considerable reduced, and about 40% of the stems of the surviving Dipterocarps were injured (Tab.8).

It is concluded that biodiversity of fire-affected forests is considerably reduced with increasing fire intensity. Pioneer species, particularly the Euphorbiaceae, are promoted by fire.

Tab.6. Ranking of tree families within fire intensity classes, based on abundance.

Fire intensity 0 1 2 3 Dipterocarpaceae Euphorbiaceae Euphorbiaceae Euphorbiaceae Euphorbiaceae Dipterocarpaceae Verbenaceae Verbenaceae Myrtaceae Lauraceae Lauraceae Moraceae Anacardiaceae Myrtaceae Dipterocarpaceae Mytraceae Sapotaceae Sapotaceae Moraceae Lauraceae Lauraceae Moraceae Leeaceae Leeaceae Caesalpiniacaea Ebenaceae Datiscaceae Dipterocarpaceae Myristicaceae Verbenaceae Myrtaceae Rubiaceae Moraceae Anarcardiaceae Rubiaceae Datiscaceae Annonaceae Sonneratiaceae Sonneratiaceae Ulmaceae

Tab.7. Definition of vitality classes

Vitality class % of crown in leaf 0 80 to 100 1 50 to 79 2 20 to 49 3 1 to 19 4 dead

Tab.8. Crown vitality and decay according to fire intensity.

Tree family Fire Intensity 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3 Vitality classes Decay % Anacardiaceae 0,6 0,8 1,7 1,6 5 14 20 15 Caesalpiniaceae 0,8 0,9 1,4 1,9 0 8 30 54 Dipterocarpeaceae 0,9 1,0 1,6 1,9 11 10 25 40 Lauraceae 0,7 0,8 1,3 1,5 2 13 21 27 Moraceae 0,5 0,9 2,1 1,9 0 21 22 10 Myrtaceae 0,7 0,9 2,4 1,9 0 18 37 58 Rubiaceae 0,9 0,9 1,7 0,8 17 0 8 2 Saptoaceae 0,9 1,3 1,7 1,2 10 14 21 50


2.4 Damage of the Fire Episodes After 1982-83

During and after the ENSO and fire episodes of 1987, 1991, 1994 and 1997 only limited research has been accomplished on the extent and damage caused by fire and atmospheric pollution. The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry released some figures on the extent of burning during the 1994 drought. For the first time the government included burning activities other than only uncontrolled wildfires into the statistics. According to the Ministry a total land area of ca. 5.1 million ha had been affected by fire, thereof

traditional dryland farming 2.8 million ha shifting cultivation 1.5 million ha transmigrant farming 260,000 ha plantations 221,000 ha transmigrant settlements 39,500 ha reforestation areas 20,500 ha timber estates 17,000 ha natural forests 8,000 ha

The figures of the 1997-98 fire episode are not yet available at the time of writing this manuscript.


3. Fire in Seasonal Forests

The occurrence of seasonal dry periods in the tropics of South Asia increases with distance from the perhumid equatorial zone. The forests gradually develop to more open, semi-deciduous and deciduous formations (e.g., moist and dry deciduous forests, monsoon forests). The main fire-related characteristics of these formations are seasonally available flammable fuels (grass-herb layer, shed leaves) which allow the spread of surface fires. Grass species, understorey plants (shrub layer) and the overstorey (tree layer) are adapted to regular fire influence. The most important adaptive traits are thick bark, ability to heal fire scars, resprouting capability (coppicing, epicormic sprouts, dormant buds, lignotubers, etc.) and seed characteristics (dispersal, serotiny, fire cracking, soil seed bank and other germination requirements) (Stott et al. 1990; Goldammer 1993c; Tennigkeit 1997, Tennigkeit et al. 1998). These features are characteristic elements of a fire ecosystem.

During the dry season the deciduous trees shed their leaves and provide annually available surface fuel. In addition the desiccated and dried grass layer, together with the shrub layer, add to the available fuel which overall generally ranges between 5-10 t ha-1. The fires are mainly set by forest users (graziers, collectors of non-wood-forest products). The forests are underburned in order to remove dead plant material, to stimulate grass growth, and to facilitate or improve the harvest of other forest products. The fires usually develop as surface fires of moderate intensity (usually less than 400 kW m-1; cf. Stott et al. 1990), and tend to spread over large areas of forested lands. The tree layer is generally not affected by the flames, although crowning may occur earlier in the dry season when the leaves are not yet shed. In some cases fires may affect the same area two or three times per year, e.g., one early dry season fire consuming the grass layer and one subsequent fire burning in the shed leaf litter layer (Goldammer 1993a,c).

Dry deciduous forests and moist deciduous forests occur on c.250×106 ha and 530×106 ha respectively. No reliable information exists on the extent of recurring fires in these areas. It was estimated that in Burma between 3-6.5×106 ha of forests are annually affected by fire. A report from Thailand in the late 80’s estimated an annually burned area of ca. 3.1×106 ha, predominantly in dipterocarp monsoon forests. The affected area has diminished considerably since then: measures of fire protection have reduced the average area burned to ca. 1.5×106 ha (unpubl. fire inventory from Thailand, 1994). The analysis of historic information from British India reveals that during the last century and early this century almost all Indian deciduous forests were burned every year (Goldammer 1993c). Regional vegetation fire patterns in South and South East Asia recently have been described on the base of satellite-derived information (Malingreau et al. 1998).

The ecological impact of the yearly fires on the deciduous and semi-deciduous forest formations is significant. Fire strongly promotes fire tolerant trees, which replace the species potentially growing in an undisturbed environment. Many of the monsoon forests of continental Southeast Asia would be reconverted to evergreen rain forest biomes if the human-made fires were eliminated. Such phenomena have also been observed in Australia where the aboriginal fire practices and fire regimes were controlled and rain forest vegetation started to replace the fire-prone tree-grass savannas. The fire adaptations and the possible fire dependence of economically important trees such as Sal (Shorea robusta) and Teak (Tectona grandis) have long been the focus of a controversial discussion regarding the traditional fire control policy in British Indian Forestry (a).

The fire climax deciduous forests are not necessarily in an ecologically stable condition. Long-term impacts of the frequent fires lead to considerable erosion processes because of the removal of the protective litter layer just before the return of the monsoon rains. The erosion rates under standing Teak forests regularly affected by fire may exceed 60 t yr-1 ha-1 (Goldammer 1993c).


4. Fire Climax Pine Forests in South Asia’s Tropical Submontane and Montane Altitudes: In Competition with Dipterocarps

Approximately 105 species of the genus Pinus are recognized. From the main centre of speciation in Central America and Southeast Asia, some species extend into the tropics. In mainland South Asia and Insular SE Asia the pines are largely confined to the zone of lower montane rain forest. They are usually found on dry sites and prefer a slight to distinct seasonal climate. Most tropical pines are pioneers and tend to occupy disturbed sites, such as landslides, abandoned cultivation lands and burned sites.

Besides the pioneer characteristics, most tropical pines show distinct adaptations to a fire environment (bark thickness, rooting depth, occasionally sprouting, high flammability of litter) (Goldammer and Peñafiel 1990). The tropical pure pine forests of South Asia, e.g., Pinus khesyia, Pinus merkusii, Pinus roxburghii, most often are the result of a long history of regular burning. As in the tropical deciduous forests, fires are mainly set by graziers, but also spread from escaping shifting cultivation fires and the general careless use of fire in rural lands. Fire return intervals have become shorter during the last decades, often not exceeding one to five years. These regularly occurring fires favour the fire-adapted pines which replace fire-sensitive broadleaved species. The increased frequency of human-caused fires has led to an overall increase of pines and pure pine stands outside the potential natural area of occurrence in a non-fire environment. In the mountainous zones of the tropics, fire also leads to an increase of the altitudinal distribution of pines, e.g., by expanding the mid-elevation pine forest belt downslope into the lowland Dipterocarp forest biome and upslope into the montane broadleaved forest associations, e.g., the mixed oak-chestnut forests (Kowal 1966; Goldammer 1993c). These tropical fire climax pine forests occur throughout submontane elevations in Burma, Thailand, Laos, Kampuchea, Viet Nam, the Philippines (Luzón) and Indonesia (Sumatra).

All over South East Asia fire climax pine forests potentially provide a high degree of habitability and carrying capacity for humans. If used properly in time and space, fire creates a highly productive coniferous forest, which grants landscape stability and sustained supply of timber, fuelwood, resin, and grazing land. However, together with the effects of overgrazing (including trampling effects) and extensive illegal (fuel)wood cutting, the increasing occurrence of wildfires tend to destabilize the submontane pine forests and result in forest depletion, erosion and subsequent flooding of lowlands.


5. Crop Residual Burning, Weed and Succession Control, and Waste Disposal

The burning of vegetation residues and the use of fire for weed control and other regular burning takes place all over SE Asia’s lands which have been permanently converted into agricultural and pastoral land-use systems. Most striking is the burning of rice straw which contributes to seasonal haze in the region.

The total extent of agricultural residue burning is not known at present. However, some first estimates made for rice straw burning in Viet Nam show that ca. 20 million tons of rice straw are annually burned in this country alone which contribute significantly to regional air pollution budgets (Nguyen et al. 1995).

Burning of household waste finally adds to the manifold open fires in the region. In these fires vegetation residues are increasingly mixed with other waste types, e.g. plastic materials, etc.


6. Other Smoke and Aerosol Sources from Biofuel Burning

The use of biofuels (fuelwood) in households is another source of plant biomass combustion. Together with fossil fuel burning these emissions may also contribute significantly to regional haze (Streets and Morris 1998). These emission need to be included in regional assessments and mitigation strategies at national and regional scale. Priority must be given to exploring the specific emission characteristics of fires in primary and secondary rain forests, peat swamp forest, alang-alang grasslands, and rice straw burning. A research component directly or indirectly associated with the upcoming SEAFIRE program must include basic research which will assist to better qualify and quantify the assessment of smoke impacts in combination with transport models.


7. Regional Initiatives in Fire and Smoke Management and Policy Development

7.1 National Indonesian Fire Management and Related Projects

7.1.1 Pre-1997 Projects

As a consequence of the smog episode of 1991 in SE Asia which was mainly caused by fires burning on the Indonesian archipelago the Government of Indonesia called for international cooperation to support national fire management capabilities. In June 1992 an international conference on “Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management” was held in Bandung. Participants were national agencies involved in fire management and the international community represented by national and international development organizations and potential donors. The objective of the conference was to develop the framework for an internationally concerted action plan on “Long-Term Integrated Forest Fire Management” for Indonesia. In this program all partners involved are sharing expertise and resources in fire management (BAPPENAS 1992).

The implementation of the “Bandung Strategy” is underway. In 1994 a bilateral Indonesian-German project “Integrated Forest Fire Management” (IFFM) became operational. The project is aimed to build up fire management capabilities in the Province of East Kalimantan (project duration scheduled at moment 1994-2000). The IFFM system includes community-based fire management approaches. IFFM aims to produce a model for other Indonesian provinces.

After 1994 several other foreign assisted projects were established, e.g.:

  • Fire management projects supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Sumatera (Jambi) and West Kalimantan (see Hideki 1997)
  • The European Union “Forest Fire Prevention and Control Project” (FFPCP) in Sumatera (Palembang);
  • The UK Overseas Development Administration (ODA) “Tropical Forest Management Project” with a fire management support component in Central Kalimantan;
  • The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) at the central level (Ministry of Forestry; meanwhile terminated); and
  • The fire management training courses conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and US AID (inter-project).

In 1995 legal provisions were made to establish a “National Coordination Team on Forest and Land and Fire Management” under the Ministry for Environment (executed by the Environmental Impact Management Agency BAPEDAL) for coordinating fire and atmosphere pollution management measures at national level in case of large fire and smog disasters. This coordination body was also active in 1996 in public awareness campaigns (Makarim and Deddy 1997). Also in 1995, the Ministry of Forestry was designated to establish their national and provincial PUSDAL fire coordination committees.

The development of “National Guidelines on Protection of Forests Against Fire” is a project sponsored by the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) with a present budget of ca. 1 million US-$. The guidelines were finalized after the inputs this International Workshop (Bogor, 8-9 December 1997). This project follows the development of the “ITTO Guidelines on Fire Management in Tropical Forests” (ITTO 1997) which were designed to address the global problem of fires in the tropical zone.

All these the ambitious projects initiated in the first half of the 1990s had only a limited impact on the overall fire and smog situation during the 1997 episode. In the province of East Kalimantan the institutional approach of the GTZ-assisted IFFM Project obviously had strong impacts on the provincial government. The integration of IFFM into structures of the Ministry of Forestry (Kanwil) and the provincial Forest Service (Dinas) provided direct access to the governor and the provincial PUSDAL Committee in which all agencies concerned with fire and smoke issues take joint decisions. The use of the operational Early Warning System (Fire Danger Rating System), which has proven to give realistic and meaningful assessments of the build-up of fire danger during the last two years. The provincial governments was alerted in early August and immediately took the necessary steps to reduce burning by concessionaires and villagers. I was most important was that on the one side the foreign-assisted project had begun to create structures in the line organisation of the provincial forest service Dinas (top-down development of lines of responsibilities and command). On the other side the IFFM project – like the EU- and JICA-assisted projects in Sumatera – have a distinct grassroot-level (community-based, participatory) approach by involving the villagers int the fire prevention program. Furthermore, IFFM assists the fire users by providing extension service. In the long run it will be necessary to establish a burning permit system in which the provincial fire management service will not only ensure law enforcement of no-burn orders, but also assist farmers and concessions to apply prescribed fire by minimizing undesired environmental damages.

The government of Indonesia in 1995 took first measures to abandon the use of fire in land clearing activities by issuing a decree which banned the use of fire in converting forests to Hutan Tanaman Industri (HTI). In December 1997 another ban on the use of fire in forest conversion and slash-and-burn was imposed by the government of Indonesia.

The search for alternatives to forest conversion burning and traditional slash-and-burn agriculture must receive high priority. Until 1997 only a few cases are known in which HTI enterprises developed conversion methods without involving fire. An interesting example is the system developed by Pt. Adindo Hutani for its conversion program in East Kalimantan (Tarakan). The non-fire conversion procedure involves a three-step mechanical treatment of non-commercial wood/plant biomass, the extraction of commercial timber and mechanical site preparation.

Research projects are underway within the CIFOR-supported international program “Alternatives to Slash-and-Burn”. Little research and development has been devoted to utilize woody biomass for chip or briquette production and to explore potential markets.

7.1.2 Projects initiated during and after the fire/smoke episode of 1997

In response to the regional smog situation in 1997 a series of projects were initiated.


Science and Technology

In November 1997 the Government of Indonesia convened this “International Conference on Science and Technology for the Assessment of Global Environmental Change and its Impacts on the Indonesian Maritime Continent” in Jakarta. The conference resulted in recommendation for a national action plan in research and technology development, called for increasing international research cooperation, and recommended the establishment of a multinational research centre to serve the countries within the region for climate prediction, crop estimation, and disaster mitigation.

This institute is being established at present as “Indonesian Research Institute for Climate, Environment and Society” (INRICES) under the founding initiative of the Indonesian Ministry for Research and Technology (BPPT).


New Projects and inter-Project Coordination

Following discussions with senior government officials in Jakarta and Manila regarding the fire and smoke situation in Indonesia, assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was requested. At present an Advisory Technical Assistance “Planning for Fire Prevention and Drought Management and Mitigation of their Impacts” is prepared by ADB. Under the coordination of BAPPENAS (executing agency) the program will be implemented through the Environmental Impact Management Agency (BAPEDAL) during a lifetime of 8 months starting in early 1998. The total budget (including financing by the Indonesian government, in kind) will be 1.2 million $US.

The initiative of the Consultative Group on Indonesian Forestry (CGIF), under the GTZ-supported program “Strengthening the Management Capabilities of the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry, restored the lost momentum of cooperation between the national agencies and foreign-assisted projects in fire management. On 12 December 1997 the CGIF convened a “Special Session on Land and Forest Fires” in which the current situation was analyzed. The objective of CGIF activities is the strengthening of inter- and intra-agency/project collaboration within Indonesia. The further discussion of national strategies will be supported by a Tim Kecil on Fire Management which was inaugurated in March 1998.


7.2 Regional Initiatives on “Transboundary Haze Pollution” in the South East Asian Region

The regional smog events of 1991 and 1994 triggered a series of regional measures towards cooperation in fire and smoke management. In 1992 and 1995 regional workshops on “Transboundary Haze Pollution” were held in Balikpapan (Indonesia) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). This was followed by the establishment of a “Haze Technical Task Force” during the Sixth Meeting of the ASEAN Senior Officials on the Environment (ASOEN) (September 1995). The task force is chaired by Indonesia and comprises senior officials from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore. The objectives of the work of the task force is to operationalize and implement the measures recommended in the ASEAN Cooperation Plan on Transboundary Pollution relating to atmospheric pollution, including particularly the problem of fire and smoke (ASEAN 1995b).

On 12 December 1997 Malaysia and Indonesia signed a bilateral memorandum of understanding allowing the two countries to work together to tackle the haze problem and manage any other form of disasters that may occur. On 20 December 1997 the ASOEN Task Force on Haze finalized the Regional Haze Action Plan.

In December 1996 the ASEAN Institute of Forest Management (AIFM) convened the “Conference on Transboundary Pollution and its Impacts on the Sustainability of Tropical Forests” in Kuala Lumpur (AIFM 1997a). At that conference the ASEAN Fire Forum was formed which came up with a proposal for an ASEAN-wide program in fire management and research (Goldammer et al. 1998; see Appendix I).

The Fire Forum discussed, among other, the “AIFM Plan of Action Regarding Forest Fire Management”. That proposal dated back to 1995 and aimed to fulfil the actions required by the ASEAN Cooperation Plan. Although Canada had offered ca. 50 percent of the total costs for preparing the action plan, the proposal was not accepted by ASEAN. The plan was based on an attempt to survey the forest fire situation in the ASEAN region (AIFM 1997b).

In late 1997 a part of the original core of the AIFM Action Plan was again submitted to the ASEAN nations. The proposed “Fire Danger Rating System for Indonesia: An Adaptation of the Canadian Fire Behavior Prediction System” is now being prepared on a cast-share base in a joint effort between the Canadian Forest Service and ASEAN member countries. At the stage of writing of this report Indonesia (BPPT) and Malaysia (Primary Industries) have agreed to contribute to the program; at the time of writing this paper negotiations with Singapore and Brunei are underway.

In response to the ASEAN Environmental Ministers’ Jakarta Declaration on Environment and Development on 18 September 1997, the Asian Development Bank is considering provision of funds through a Regional Technical Assistance (RETA) grant to assist ASEAN in strengthening cooperation among fire- and smoke-affected ASEAN countries in the following areas: (i) catalyzing fire and haze prevention measures, (ii) improving fire and haze prediction and monitoring, (iii) improving fire management, (iv) human resources development, (v) economic and scientific studies, and (vi) institutional support and information management.


8. Research Initiatives

8.1 Pre-1997 Research


Fire Ecology

Fire research in Indonesia and the mainland in the 1990s largely concentrated on fire effects on ecosystem properties and ecosystem stability. Much of this research has been summarized (synoptically analyzed) in this paper. More recent research has been focusing on slash-and-burn agriculture and vegetation succession (Kiyono and Hastaniah 1997) and fire ecology research in South Sumatra (Saharjo 1997).

The state of research provides a tremendous knowledge of basic fire impacts. However, it also reveals a still lacking knowledge on long-term observations of fire-affected ecosystems.


The Socio-Economic and Cultural Background of Fires

While many of the publications cited above contain information on fire causes, there are only few in-depth studies available on the socio-economic and cultural aspects of managing the fire problem. The forest fire management system in Thailand has its strong base on a fire prevention approach which is being realized by a close cooperation with the local population. The same refers to the IFFM approach in Indonesia (Abberger 1996; see also the work of Otsuka [1991] on forest management and farmers in East Kalimantan). A basic study on the socio-economic and cultural background of forest fires in the pine forests of the Philippines was conducted in the late 1980s and reveals the usefulness of such surveys for further management planning (Noble 1990).

Despite of the initial efforts it must be stated that there is a tremendous gap of expertise and available methodologies of socio-economic and cultural approaches in integrating people into operational fire management systems.


8.2 Proposed post-1997 Research Programs

8.2.1 Interdisciplinary Research: Coupling of Ecological, Atmospheric and Climate Research in the IGBP/IGAC SEAFIRE Programme

In recent years increasing attention has been given to the impact of tropical fires on regional and global-scale environmental processes, e.g., the role of tropical fires in biogeochemical cycles and especially in the chemistry of the atmosphere (Crutzen and Goldammer 1993). Recent estimates of the magnitude of tropical plant biomass burned in shifting agriculture, permanent deforestation, other forest fires and savanna fires revealed that the prompt (gross) annual release of carbon into the atmosphere from these fires may range between one and four billion tons (e.g., Andreae and Goldammer 1992). Though the amount of carbon remaining in the atmosphere (net release) is not known exactly, it is generally accepted that the annual net release of carbon into the atmosphere from plant biomass burned for permanent conversion of tropical forest into other land uses (“net deforestation”) amounts to ca. 1 billion tons per year.

Although the emissions from tropical vegetation fires are dominated by carbon dioxide (CO2), many products of incomplete combustion that play important roles in atmospheric chemistry and climate are emitted as well. Much of the burning is regionally concentrated, occurring mainly during the dry season, and resulting in levels of atmospheric pollution that rival those in the industrialized regions of the developed world. Photochemical reactions, for instance, in the plumes of vegetation fires may be responsible for as much as one third of the global input of ozone into the troposphere. Recent observations of seasonally elevated levels of tropospheric ozone in some tropical regions, particularly over the southern tropical Atlantic Ocean between South America and Africa, have been explained by emissions from tropical wildland fires and subsequent photochemical processes which may play an important role in atmospheric chemistry over that large region of the Earth. The investigation of this phenomenon through an international fire research campaign has verified this hypothesis (Andreae et al. 1993).

Vegetation fires in South East Asia have additional implications which are not yet entirely understood. The global climate is determined critically by tropical convective air movements, leading to the injection of air masses into high altitudes of the atmosphere and their long-range transport and re-distribution. These global circulation patterns originate at the continental and oceanic surfaces with elevated temperatures. This “warm pool” of the globe is in the maritime continent of the equatorial region of Asia.

In the midst of the warmest region of the world, the Indonesian archipelago, extensive burning of vegetation (shifting cultivation, forest conversion burning, and other agricultural burning) takes place. Although the impacts of these fires on atmospheric chemistry have not yet been explored, it is assumed that two major patterns of emission distribution from vegetation fires exist:

During the “High Phase” (normal years) of the Walker Circulation low pressure is centred over the hot spots. Air masses with products from biomass burning (aerosols, trace gases) are carried to the high troposphere and exported globally.

During the “Low Phase” the warm waters of the “warm pool” are transported to the eastern Pacific, and high pressure builds up over the Indonesian archipelago. A typical ENSO situation develops during which emissions from forest burning are trapped in the lower troposphere.

The last years with extraordinary fire activities in Indonesia were years characterized by the Low Phase of the Walker Circulation. The fire season of 1982-83 was characterized by escaped land-use fires which caused large-size wildfires on several million hectares. In the following years the situation was different. The smoke emitted from the Indonesian archipelago in 1987, 1991, 1994 and 1997 was not primarily caused by wildfires. The main sources were shifting cultivation, a traditional practice, but one that is rapidly expanding, and the systematic application of fire for converting primary and selectively exploited rain forests into plantation forests.

A systematic, quantitative and qualitative regional research approach is still missing. This gap could be filled by the research activities proposed at the Jakarta Conference in November 1997. The first program which has been proposed in 1994 (but was not yet operational) is the South East Asian Fire Experiment (SEAFIRE). SEAFIRE is a planned research activity under the scheme of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). The International Global Atmospheric Chemistry (IGAC) Project is a core project of IGBP. One of the activities of IGAC Focus 2 (Natural Variability and Anthropogenic Perturbations of the Tropical Atmospheric Chemistry) investigates the impact of biomass burning on the atmosphere and biosphere (Biomass Burning Experiment [BIBEX]). SEAFIRE will establish the fire research component within the Integrated SARCS/IGBP/IHDP/WCRP Study “Human Driving Forces of Environmental Change in Southeast Asia and the Implications for Sustainable Development”.

SEAFIRE was planned to take place in the late 1990’s and investigate the ecological impacts of fire in land use (fires used in forest conversion and shifting cultivation, grassland and seasonally dry [monsoon] forests) and the characteristics and regional and global transport of pyrogenic emissions. Biogenic and marine sources of trace gases and aerosols will be considered. Special emphasis will be laid on interannual climate variability (ENSO vs. non-ENSO) and the role of the “Warm Pool” in global distribution of fire products.

The SEAFIRE procedures will include or coordinate with other regional (ASEAN) activities in fire management and research, e.g. the planned AIFM Forest Fire Management Plan of Action, the national projects mentioned above (e.g., Indonesia’s IFFM and FFPCP, the Thailand Fire Response Plan.), and international programmes, such as the remote sensing programme conducted in cooperation between the EU (Institute for Remote Sensing Applications), the People’s Republic of China, Viet Nam, and NASA (Langley Research Centre). The SEAFIRE program had its first planning meetings in 1995-97:

  • Initial scientific planing workshop (Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, September 1995)
  • Two planning sessions at the 13th Conference on Fire and Meteorology (Lorne, Australia, October 1996)
  • Participation in the Integrated SARCS/IGBP/IHDP/WCRP Study “Human Driving Forces of Environmental Change in Southeast Asia and the Implications for Sustainable Development”: Planning meeting in Bangkok (May 1996) and the Synthesis Workshop on Greenhouse Gas Emission, Aerosols and Land Use and Cover Change in Southeast Asia (Chungli, Taiwan, R.o.C., November 1997).

It would be desirable to start implementation of SEAFIRE in 1999 with a combined ground- and aircraft-based campaign and evaluation of remotely sensed data. Any further progress in SEAFIRE planning will be published in International Forest Fire News and through the SEAFIRE Web Site:

A draft outline of the SEAFIRE philosophy is given in Appendix II.


8.2.2 Program to Address ASEAN Regional Transboundary Smoke (PARTS)

The PARTS program is in response to the needs and assistance requested by the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology, Sub-Committee on Meteorology and Geophysics (ASCMG). At ASCMG’s 18th meeting (Bangkok, 1995) it was agreed to initiate a project on transboundary air pollution. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), in conjunction with the goals of its Global Atmospheric Watch (GAW) program, in 1996 reviewed and evaluated National Meteorological and Hydrometeorological Services (NMHS) capabilities in detecting, monitoring and predicting the long-range transport of atmospheric pollution. Subsequently, WMO designed PARTS to improve the regional capabilities in satellite usage, modelling long-range transport of smoke, haze, and other pollutants, and to design and implement a monitoring strategy for the region. At the time of writing this manuscript the WMO is preparing the “WMO Workshop on Regional Transboundary Smoke and Haze in South-East Asia”, Singapore, 2-5 June 1998.


8.2.3 Other Fields for Related Science and Technology

A series of innovative developments of fire management technologies have been achieved in the past decade or are in the development stage. It is highly recommended that agencies, universities and individual scientists from Indonesia and other ASEAN countries should urgently be involved in technological development programs.


Detection and monitoring of fire

Spaceborne remote sensing technologies have improved the capability to identify fire activities at local, regional and global scales by using visible and infrared sensors on existing platforms for detecting temperature anomalies, active fires, and smoke plumes. Geosynchronous satellites such as GOES and polar orbiting sensors such as the NOAA AVHRR have been used successfully to establish calendars of vegetation state (fire hazard) and fire activities. Other satellites with longer temporal sampling intervals, but with higher resolution, such as Landsat and SPOT, and spaceborne radar sensors, deliver accurate maps of active fires, vegetation state and areas affected by fire. Fire scar (burned area) inventories for emission estimates are difficult to conduct, especially in the region of the Maritime Continent in which cloud cover inhibits ground visibility of many sensors. Radar sensors such as SAR offer good potential application in fire scar characterization. ASEAN scientists (candidate institutions: ASEAN Specialized Meteorological Centre (ASMC) and the Indonesian National Institute of Aeronautics and Space (LAPAN)) should consider appropriate research.

The fire episode of 1997 in Indonesia has clearly demonstrated that the “hot spot” information generated by the NOAA AVHRR is of limited value. New sensors are currently developed which are specifically aimed to satisfy the demands of the fire science and management community, e.g. the BIRD satellite project of the Deutsche Forschungsanstalt für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR) (with a two-channel infrared sensor system in combination with a wide-angle optoelectronic stereo scanner) and the envisaged fire sensor component FOCUS on the International Space Station (Briess et al. 1997, DLR 1997). Indonesia’s Ministry for Research and Technology (BPPT) is interested to collaborate with the DLR in testing and validating the BIRD satellite.


Fire weather and fire danger forecasts

Weather forecasts at short to extended time ranges and global to regional space scales can be utilized for wildland fire management, e.g. the recent proposal by the US National Centre for Environmental Prediction (NCEP). The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) has been successfully used for estimating fire danger. A recent (not yet published) report of the IDNDR (IDNDR 1997) gives an overview on a series of candidate systems for early warning of fire precursors which should investigated by Indonesian scientists.

The proposed Canadian project “Fire Danger Rating System for Indonesia: An Adaptation of the Canadian Fire Behavior Prediction System” will be an important contribution towards improving the basic knowledge on the weather-fuel-fire/fire behaviour relationships.

The fire danger rating systems which are already in use in some parts of Indonesia (IFFM-GTZ), however, may be more readily available to produce a regional early warning system within a relatively short time period of a few months. The Ministry of Environment of Singapore has indicated interest to test the system at ASEAN level.


Climate-fire modelling capabilities

Global Circulation Models allow the integration of information crucial for assessing fire danger in a regionally or globally changed climate. This has been proven successfully for the boreal zone (Stocks and Lynham 1996, Stocks et al. 1997) and partially for tropical fire regimes (Goldammer and Price 1997). Coupled ocean-atmosphere circulation models provide a tool to predict regional climate variability caused by the ENSO in long-term. The ASMC has indicated interest to broaden its scope towards long-term modelling of regional climate.


9. Conclusions

The fire-generated haze problems during the typical ENSO years between 1982 and 1997 have triggered regional and global interest in exploring the causes and impacts of vegetation burning on the environment. In accordance with the suggestions by Yokelson et al. (this volume) we need to have a closer look into the quality and quantity of emissions created under the specific vegetation and climate conditions of the Maritime Continent.



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South East Asia Background

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