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Connection between fire and land cover change in Southeast Asia: a remote sensing case study in Riau, Sumatra

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Biomass burning in humid tropical Southeast Asia causes haze problems, environmental degradation and economic losses. These fires have often been connected to land clearance and changes in land cover. This study investigates the relationship between fire and land cover change in humid tropical Southeast Asia. The analysis is based on three sets of land cover classifications and burnt area detections (1998, 2000 and 2002), based on SPOT 2 HRV and SPOT 4 HRVIR images. The results indicate that the connection between land cover change and fire is highly dependent on land cover type. There is a strong correlation between land cover change and fire in the primary vegetation and a slightly weaker correlation in the secondary growth. More than 90% of the severely burnt primary vegetation areas and 45% of the severely burnt secondary growth resulted in land cover type change during the study. Fire is extensively used for conversion on the aforementioned land cover types. In the managed land cover types fire does not have any correlation with land cover changes. This study also revealed substantial land cover changes in the study area. The primary vegetation areas diminish by approximately 5% per year, while the managed land cover types consistently increase their areas.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing, National University of Singapore, Block SOC‐1, Level 2, Faculty of Science, Lower Kent Ridge Road, Singapore 119260,, Email:

Publication date: March 1, 2005

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