International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire

Understorey fire propagation and tree mortality on adjacent areas to an Amazonian deforestation fire

J. A. Carvalho Jr. A , C. A. Gurgel Veras B , E. C. Alvarado C G , D. V. Sandberg D , S. J. Leite E , R. Gielow F , E. R. C. Rabelo A and J. C. Santos F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), Avenida Ariberto Pereira da Cunha 333,12516-410, Guaratinguetá, SP, Brazil.

B Universidade de Brasília (UnB), Asa Norte, 70910-900, Brasília, DF, Brazil.

C University of Washington, School of Forest Resources, Mail Box 352100,Seattle, WA 98195, USA.

D USDA Forest Service, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA.

E Universidade do Estado de Mato Grosso (UNEMAT), Caixa Postal 324, 78580-000,Alta Floresta, MT, Brazil.

F Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), Rodovia Presidente Dutra km 40,12630-000, Cachoeira Paulista, SP, Brazil.

G Corresponding author. Email:

International Journal of Wildland Fire 19(6) 795-799
Submitted: 1 April 2008  Accepted: 1 May 2010   Published: 17 September 2010


Fire characteristics in tropical ecosystems are poorly documented quantitatively in the literature. This paper describes an understorey fire propagating across the edges of a biomass burn of a cleared primary forest. The experiment was carried out in 2001 in the Amazon forest near Alta Floresta, state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, as part of biomass burning experiments conducted in the same area since 1997. The vegetation of a 200 × 200-m2 forested area was clear-cut in early June and burned in late August. The understorey fire that escaped from the main burn was monitored across the four sides of the land clearing area. Flame-front spread varied between 0.14 and 0.35 m min–1. Maximum flame height was about 30 cm and typical flame depth was 10 to 15 cm. Tree mortality was investigated in 2003 in four areas adjacent to the biomass burning experiment. A total of 210 trees were counted in the four areas, 29.5% were dead as a consequence of the understorey fire that had occurred 2 years before. This fire-caused mortality is evidence of the synergistic effect between slash burning, tree mortality and future fire vulnerability on the forest–land clearing interfaces.

Additional keywords: biomass combustion, escaped fires, tropical forest.


Support of this research is acknowledged from the following institutions: Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo – FAPESP, Brazil (project 98/00104–9), USDA Forest Service (project PNW 99–5147–1-CA), US Agency for International Development, and US National Science Foundation. The burn was conducted with authorisation of Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico – CNPq (process CMC-005/001) and Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis – IBAMA, Brazil. We also thank the owners of the Fazenda Caiabi, Alta Floresta, Brazil.


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