Climate Change and Mountain Community Fire Management in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
John All1, Michael Medler2, Rebecca J Cole3, Sylvie Arques2 and Carl G Schmitt4, (1)Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, KY, United States, (2)Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA, United States, (3)University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, United States, (4)National Center for Atmospheric Research, NESL-MMM, Boulder, CO, United States
In the central Andes of Peru, climate change is altering fire risk through changes in local meteorology and fuel loading. Greater moisture and favorable growing conditions are increasing vegetative productivity, which in turn increases fuel loads. This process is accentuated during El Nino events and potentially results in increased fire occurrence and frequency during relatively dry La Nina events. Park officials are concerned about the ramification of the changes on local ecology and tourist use of the resources. However, using a time-series of two different products from the MODIS Terra and Aqua platforms (Active Fire and Burned Area), TRMM 3B43 precipitation data, and Multivariate ENSO Index data we document fire occurrence and extent from 2000 to 2010 and our analysis indicates that fires are burning exclusively during winter months when there are no natural ignition sources. Globally, fire is used in conjunction with grazing to improve the regeneration and yield of grasses. During our interviews, locals claimed to only set fires in the buffer zone outside of the park, but our analysis indicates that the buffer zone rarely burns and that most fires begin within the park and only occasionally move into the buffer zones. Additionally, we determined that although this is small-scale fire activity every year, overall fire is having a very minor effect on local systems. The park service must develop programs to work with local grazing stakeholders to better limit the impacts of fire, while also address the negative perceptions from tourists in the future. In this instance, fire perception and fire reality are not the same and the challenge for resource managers is how to reconcile these two factors in order to more effectively manage the parklands.