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Fire Management in Latin America & Caribbean


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This is a presentation given in a wildland fire session at the 9th World Wilderness Congress held in Merida, Mexico, 9 November 2009. It gives an overview of fire management in several Latin America countries.

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Fire Management in Latin America & Caribbean

  1. 1. Fire Management: Wildland Fire & Protected Areas in the Context of Changing Environments: Latin America & the Caribbean Caribbean pine savanna Ronald L. Myers Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve Tallahassee, FL, USA Honduras
  2. 2. Primary barriers to effective fire management in Latin American & Caribbean protected areas: 1. Lack of understanding of the ecological role of fire in ecosystems. 2. Failure to link the underlying causes of fire problems with appropriate solutions. 3. Counter-productive public policies and legislation. 4. Capacity & resource issues.
  3. 3. 1. Lack of understanding of the ecological role of fire in ecosystems: • Failure to understand fire regimes and what is ecologically appropriate for a given ecosystem. • Failure to understand & distinguish fire- dependent vs fire-sensitive (= fire-influenced) ecosystems & their relationships. • Failure to distinguish between detrimental & beneficial fires. • Failure to recognize the role of human burning in maintaining desired ecosystem states.
  4. 4. 2. Failure to link the underlying causes of fire problems with appropriate solutions: • Most fires are ignited by people for the purpose of maintaining their livelihoods. • Failure to understand the socio-economic context in which many of those fires occur. • Focus on emergency response rather than underlying causes of unwanted fires. • Prevention programs that label all fires as bad. • Lack of integrated approaches to the problem.
  5. 5. 3. Counter-productive public policies & legislation: • Focus on fire suppression & prevention of all fires even in fire- dependent ecosystems. • Criminalize fire use. • Prohibit fire use & prescribed burning in forested ecosystems and particularly in protected natural areas. • Misconceptions about, or narrow perceptions of, Fire Management. • Lack of integration & coordination of programs and agencies. • Lack of resources, knowledge, and capacity to promote safe & effective controlled burns where permitted, e.g. buffer zones. • Poorly thought out carbon sequestration projects in fire- dependent ecosystems.
  6. 6. Dominican Republic: Fire-dependent Pinus occidentalis forests with imbedded fire-sensitive cloud forests
  7. 7. Haiti DR
  8. 8. Status & issues: Dominican Republic • Not understanding that the pine forests need to burn under an appropriate fire regime. • Relatively effective fire suppression capacity leading to large destructive wildfires. • Escaped agricultural fires affecting forest edges. Agricultural burning is prohibited, but pervasive. • Prescribed fire not permitted in protected natural areas. • 5-year Fire Management Strategy promotes Rx fire in plantations, but not supported by current government. • Minimal prescribed fire or fire use capacity.
  9. 9. Wildfire, March 2005. Wildland fire use decisions
  10. 10. Cuba: Four species of pine; 3 are endemic; 3 depend on fire. Fire-dependent palm savannas and herbaceous wetlands Wet savanna, Morón Pinus tropicales, Los Indios Reserve, Isle of Youth
  11. 11. Status & Issues: Cuba • Not understanding that some ecosystems are fire dependent. • Relatively effective fire suppression capacity. • Prescribed fire not an accepted practice & not permitted in protected natural areas. • No prescribed fire capacity. • Fire ecology research at the Universidad de Pinar del Río. • Intensive silviculture in pine forests. • Invasive species problems: Dichrostachys cinerea
  12. 12. Fire Management Workshop series in Cuba
  13. 13. Integrated Fire Management Plan for Monte Ramonal Floristic Reserve Domingo Ballate Denis, Regional Chief, Silviculture, Empresa Nacional para la Protección de la Flora y la Fauna
  14. 14. Training and research burns at Monte Ramonal
  15. 15. Isla de la Juventud Prescribed burning to maintain Reserva Biológica Los Indios Cuban sandhill crane habitat. Pinus tropicalis y P. caribea Grulla cubana Pinar del Río
  16. 16. Guatemala: Fire-dependent pine forests & fire-sensitive tropical broadleaved forests Escaped agricultural fires in the Petén (Selva Maya)
  17. 17. Status & Issues: Guatemala • Lack of understanding of fire-dependent pine forests. • Colonization of the Petén by people with no experience with agricultural burning. Excessive escaped fires. Land tenure issues. Fires affecting Belize & Mexico. • Perception that once a tropical forest burns it no longer has conservation value. • Lack of community-based fire management programs. • Prescribed fire in protected areas is prohibited. • Lack of prescribed fire capacity. • New draft strategy that will recognize prescribed fire as a management tool.
  18. 18. Honduras: 70% of country is fire-dependent pine/oak and pine savanna ecosystems. Three species of pine.
  19. 19. Status & Issues: Honduras • Huge proportion of pinelands burn every year. Limits pine regeneration. • Role of fire in maintaining pine ecosystem not well understood. • Former prescribed fire capacity; prescribed fire accepted as a silvicultural tool by government and utilized by private timber companies. • New forest law allows prescribed fire; draft rules for prescribed fire use. • Military involved in fire management. • Fire use in protected areas not accepted. • Community-based programs will be key.
  20. 20. Fire management assessment of Caribbean pine savannas in eastern Honduras
  21. 21. Role of indigenous burning (Miskito Indians) in maintaining desired ecosystems.
  22. 22. Costa Rica: La Amistad International Park. Fire- sensitive Montane Tropical Forest adjacent to fire- dependent Páramo and montane grasslands.
  23. 23. Páramo Transition Montane forest Parque Internacional La Amistad, Costa Rica
  24. 24. Relationship between Lower Montane Grasslands & Montane Wet Forest
  25. 25. Venezuela: Indigenous fires, Canaima National Park, the Gran Savanna: Conflict of perceptions
  26. 26. Pampas in Bolivia: Parque Nacional Knoel Kempff Loss of the human component Lobo de crin o aguará guazú (Chrysocyon brachyurus)
  27. 27. Guanaco chaqueño in Bolivia
  28. 28. 1975
  29. 29. 2007
  30. 30. Integrating fire management decisions with ecology and society Fire management technologies Fire culture & society Ecology
  31. 31. Muchas Gracias por su atención… Caras del Fuego