Fires in Southeast Asia
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Fires in Southeast Asia

March 22, 2006

Hundreds of fires, outlined in red, continue to burn across Myanmar in this image acquired on March 10, 2006.

Also visible are portions of China (upper right), India (far left), Laos (center right) and Thailand (lower right); the Bay of Bengal creeps into the lower left portion of the image.

The grayish plumes of smoke blowing from left to right, with the prevailing winds, are readily distinguished from the brighter, white colored and clumped masses of clouds. Smoke tends to pool in the lower elevations, while the rugged Himalayas within the Yunnan and Sichuan provinces of China provide a barrier to further movement.

It is highly likely that these fires have been set intentionally for agricultural purposes; fire is used to clear fields of ground cover and residual crops, as well as to add nutrients to the soil.

Satellite images such as this one have been used to quantify the amount of forest cover lost in Myanmar in recent decades; researchers have estimated the loss to be about 13% from 1990-2000.

Conservation International lists this region as a hotspot of biological diversity, providing habitat to nearly 7,000 endemic (found only locally) species of plants, as well as 18 threatened species of birds, 25 mammals, and 35 threatened amphibian species.

The conversion of forested land for agriculture, as well as logging, mining, and draining of wetlands, have been identified as threats to biodiversity in this region.

Topics: Environment, Yunnan

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