EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Near-complete loss of fire-resistant primary tropical forest cover in Sumatra and Kalimantan

Tadas Nikonovas1, Allan Spessa1, Stefan Doerr1, Gareth Clay2, and Symon Mezbuhaddin3
Tadas Nikonovas et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP, UK
  • 2Department of Geography, School of Environment, Education and Development, University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK
  • 3Department of Renewable Resources, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, T6G 2E3, Canada

Deforestation in Indonesia in recent decades has made increasingly large parts of the region vulnerable to fires. Burning is particularly widespread in deforested peatlands, and it leads to globally significant carbon emissions. Here we use satellite-based observations to assess loss and fragmentation of primary forests and associated changes in fire regimes in Sumatra and Kalimantan between 2001 and 2019. We find that fires did not penetrate undisturbed primary forest areas deeper than two kilometres from the forest edge irrespective of drought conditions. However, fire-resistant forest now covers only 3% of peatlands and 4.5% of non-peatlands; the majority of the remaining primary forests are severely fragmented or degraded due to proximity to the forest edge. We conclude that protection and regeneration of the remaining blocks of contiguous primary forest, as well as peatland restoration, are urgently needed to mitigate the impacts of potentially more frequent fire events under future global warming.

How to cite: Nikonovas, T., Spessa, A., Doerr, S., Clay, G., and Mezbuhaddin, S.: Near-complete loss of fire-resistant primary tropical forest cover in Sumatra and Kalimantan, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16431,, 2021.

Display materials

Display file

Comments on the display material

to access the discussion