Even if they escape the chainsaw, Indonesia's embattled tropical forests face a serious threat from drought-induced fires. That's the conclusion of researchers who have been monitoring fire-damaged plots in the south of Sumatra.-- from Indonesia's forests could go up in smoke.
By studying the year-by-year recovery of [ fire-damaged plots in the south of Sumatra] - some of which had also been burned in an earlier El Niño in 1982 - Margaret Kinnaird of the Wildlife Conservation Society and her colleagues developed a model describing how the forest regenerates. This shows that if El Niños matching the 1997 event occur twice a decade, the prospects are dim: a 46 per cent loss of forest cover over the next century..
Unfortunately, El Niños seem to be getting more frequent and severe, so this is plausible. Protecting the forests is possible, says Kinnaird. "But you've got to have good fire management. Indonesia doesn't have that."