11.03.2016. Between end January-early February 2016, we noticed that several fires originated in the open and very open canopied forests within our IFO concession in Ngombé, Republic of Congo. We have immediately carried out an exploratory mission, in cooperation with the local authorities.
The fires have irregularly punctuated different areas, no longer or not yet affected by forest operations.
The event has recently been confirmed by UMD, in the framework of its GLAD (Global Land Analysis and Discovery) initiative, with the largest cluster being estimated at 10 x 15 km. We are about to fly over the area to have a better idea of the magnitude, cause and impacts.
These open forests are called Marantaceae forests and are characterised by an open canopy with widely spaced trees and a dense herbaceous vegetation (no humid dense forests). Growing on dry soil, Marantaceae forests are similar to Savannah vegetation, i.e. sensitive to fire.
To date, the cause of the fires is unknown and clearly related to the severe drought conditions that have marked the past few years, owing to an increase in extreme events such as El Niño. As NASA/MODIS satellite imagery shows, these events stretch from the Ivory Coast, through Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon and on across the Central African Republic, the Congo, and Gabon.
In order to provide for more resilient fire-prone forests at landscape scales, we have resolved to launch a study, joining forces with UMD GLAD, FSC, WCS, WRI, University of Gembloux, CIRAD and any other interested party. The objective is to develop balanced protection strategies, to be translated into effective prevention and mitigation approaches.