Fire Regimes and Ecosystem Services in African Biodiversity Hotspots: Can Fire Policies Favoring Climate Change Mitigation, Biodiversity and Local Communities Converge?

Which are the best-balanced fire management policies?

Project Summary

Wildfires have major impacts on climate, biodiversity and ecosystem services relevant for local communities.  International cooperation, multidisciplinary, and multistakeholder approaches are necessary to investigate fires’ benefits and damages, as well as to develop management policies essential for the achievement of several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. The continent of Africa accounts for more than 70% of the area burned annually in the world, generating a CO2 amount equivalent to 14% of global emissions from fossil fuels. A large proportion of these burned areas are in the open vegetation biomes (grasslands and savannahs) of biodiversity hotspots, shaping their ecosystem composition. In these regions fire has a large social component, sometimes conflictive, as rural populations use it as a tool to manage natural resources, while government policies tend to suppress or control the use of fire.

Based on these premises, we aim to investigate how different fire regimes affect carbon dynamics, plant diversity and nature’s benefits to people in the fire-prone open biomes of the Madagascar and Maputaland-Pondoland-Albany biodiversity hotspots, in order to identify the best-balanced fire management policies.

This objective will be addressed through a multidisciplinary approach, by using demographic, social, economic, remotely sensed plant- and soil-based information obtained from databases, satellite imagery, field sampling, interviews in cultural landscapes,  controlled fire experiments, in cooperation with international actors and practitioners.

Outputs will serve to achieve comprehensive knowledge of the dimensions of fire impacts, to refine global carbon emission models by providing insights of overlooked fire-related carbon sinks, and to identify suitable policies to meet global agendas and local demands.

Research Team

Christian Kull
University of Lausanne

Gretchen Walters
University of Lausanne

Víctor Fernández García
Principal Member
University of Lausanne

Cristina Santín Nuño
Associate Member
University of Swansea

Jeannin Ranaivonasy
Associate Member
University of Antananarivo

Paulo Muando
Associate Member
Eduardo Mondlane University


Tercia Strydom
Associate Member
South African National Parks

Andry Rakoto Harivony
Associate Member
UN Food and Agriculture Organization Madagascar





Policy domains


Host Institution