DRIVERS OF BURNED AREA PATTERNS IN CERRADO: THE CASE OF MATOPIBA REGION
Keywords: Brazilian savanna, remote sensing, land use, climate, reanalysis, agricultural frontier, microregion
Abstract. The Brazilian savanna (Cerrado) is one of the most important biodiversity hotspots in the world. Being a fire-dependent biome, its structure and vegetation dynamics are shaped by and rely on the natural occurring fire regime. Over the last decades, Cerrado has been increasingly threatened by accelerated land cover changes, namely the uncontrolled and intense use of fire for land expansion. This is particularly seen in Brazil’s new agricultural frontier in northeastern Cerrado: the MATOPIBA region. Changes in MATOPIBA’s fire regime resulting from this rapid expansion are still poorly understood. Here we use satellite-derived datasets to analyze burned area patterns in MATOPIBA over the last 18 years, at the microregions level. We further evaluate the role of climate and land use in spatial and temporal burned area variability and assess their trends in the last two decades. Results show an increased contribution of MATOPIBA to Cerrado’s total burned area over the last few years: Maranhão and Tocantins present the highest values of total burned area with some microregions burning more than twice its area over the study period. Climate is shown to play a relevant role in MATOPIBA’s fire activity, explaining 52% of the interannual variance, whereas land use and burned area were found to have more complex interactions that are highly dependent on the regional context. Lastly, climate and land use drivers are found to have an overall increasing trend over the last two decades, whereas burned area trends show much heterogeneity within MATOPIBA.