Prevention, control and monitoring of bushfires in the Cerrado

Project description

Title: Prevention, Control and Monitoring of Bushfires in the Cerrado
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB)
Country: Brazil
Lead executing agency: Brazilian Environment Ministry (Ministério do Meio Ambiente, MMA)
Overall term: 2011 to 2017

Monitoring tower of the Brazilian National Institute of Space Research (INPE) © GIZ
The Cerrado is considered to be the most species-rich savannah region in the world. Covering an area of more than two million square kilometres, it is almost six times the size of Germany.

Clearing the land to make it available for agricultural use has left only around half of the original vegetation cover intact. Bushfires spread through the region each year with devastating consequences, such as loss of biodiversity, increased greenhouse gas emissions and smoke-related health problems. In 2010, an area of about 15,000 square kilometres was destroyed in the project region. The area destroyed is around the same size as the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

The Cerrado accounted for nearly 40 per cent of Brazil's land-use-related CO2 emissions in 2010. Brazil’s National Action Plan on Climate Change targets a 40 per cent reduction in these emissions by 2020.

Improved fire management and new monitoring systems for bushfires and deforestation help to maintain the Cerrado as a global carbon reservoir, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and preserve biodiversity.

As part of its International Climate Initiative, the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) is promoting measures in the field of fire prevention and control as well as measures aimed at improving satellite-based deforestation and fire monitoring systems.

The project is being implemented as a cooperative project with KfW Development Bank and is coordinated by the Brazilian Ministry of Environment. Partners include the national environmental and conservation authorities and the National Institute of Space Research (INPE), as well as the secretariat for the environment, the nature conservation authority and the rural extension services of the state of Tocantins. The measures form part of Brazil’s National Action Plan on Climate Change and the interministerial Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation and Wildfires in the Cerrado.

Cooperation focuses on the following areas:
  • Integrated fire management
    Communication and early warning systems, an operations centre and improved training standards are helping to ensure more efficient fire-fighting. Alternatives to using fire in agriculture are being developed and piloted together with the local population; the licensing system for controlled fires is being decentralised.
  • Improved management of protected areas
    Coordination mechanisms between residents and management bodies of the protected areas for the controlled use of fire are being developed and promoted. The impact of vegetation fires on biodiversity and the climate change mitigation potential of the Cerrado is being analysed.
  • Developing monitoring instruments for detecting bushfires and deforestation
    Satellite-based monitoring systems are being developed to enable successful fire-fighting and to determine vegetation degradation and the impact of fires on the carbon cycle and greenhouse gas emissions. Cooperation between INPE and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has been consolidated.
  • Knowledge management and sharing of lessons learned
    Tried-and-tested instruments and approaches for integrated fire management and lessons learned from the project are being systematised and made available to other national and international institutions to support policy development.
Through the sharing of experiences in an international context, the project has helped to bring about a paradigm shift from fire-fighting to integrated fire management. In pilot regions, 'good fires' are being used to support climate change mitigation and the conservation of biological diversity, while 'bad fires' – in particular, uncontrollable, intense bushfires at the end of the dry season – are being minimised.

Over 1,200 fire service employees, as well as farmers and representatives of civil society, have received training as part of the project. Training modules focused on integrated fire management, fire-free alternatives in agriculture and environmental education. The participants are already putting what they have learned into practice and thereby contributing to improved fire management.

Newly created maps that depict fire areas and high-risk zones are being used by the authorities to develop management instruments for fire prevention and fire-fighting.

A satellite-based monitoring system developed by INPE registers fire areas promptly. It has already been successfully tested in selected project regions and is expected to be ready for operation across Brazil by the end of 2015. In addition, INPE plans to partner with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to develop a system that calculates the climate impact of fires.

Brazil. Controlled use of fire in the Chapada das Mesas national park. (Photo: Leonardo Milano/ICMBio) © GIZ


Michael Scholze