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Biophysical characteristics and fire occurrence of cultivated pastures in the Brazilian savanna observed by moderate resolution satellite data

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Cultivated pastures are the dominant land-use unit in Brazil, with the cattle raising sector representing ∼50% of the total Brazilian emissions of greenhouse gases. About 44% of the Brazilian cattle herd is located in the 204 million ha Cerrado, the Brazilian savanna biome and one of the world's hotspots for conservation, where pasture is still the major driving force behind the ongoing land clearance. In the face of the environmental challenges posed by the Cerrado cultivated pastures, 50% of which are estimated to be already severely degraded and where most of the pasture-related fires in Brazil occur, in this study we report the findings on the use of key Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Land (MODLAND) products for retrieving biophysical patterns and trends of cultivated pastures over the entire Brazilian savanna biome. The areas of Cerrado covered by cultivated pastures were analysed by the following 2008 MODIS products: MOD13Q1 enhanced vegetation index, MOD11A2 land-surface temperature, MOD15A2 leaf area index, and MCD45A1 fire-affected areas. Specifically, 23 MOD13Q1 composites for the whole year of 2008 were used as a net primary productivity proxy. Our results indicate the ability of moderate resolution orbital imagery to consistently depict the main characteristics and regional variation in the biophysical properties of the Cerrado pastures, which clearly depend on management practices, usage, and environmental conditions. In particular, these results corroborate the feasibility of an operational MODIS-based monitoring system providing early fire warnings and overall quality assessments in support of a more efficient and sustainable herd occupation and more appropriate land-use destination.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Federal University of Goias, Image Processing and GIS Lab (UFG/LAPIG), Goiania,CEP 74001-970, Brazil 2: Brazilian Agriculture Research Organization (Embrapa Cerrados), Planaltina,73310-970, Brazil 3: Department of Global Ecology,Carnegie Institution, Stanford,CA, USA

Publication date: January 10, 2013

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