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28.06.2018. A Working Group on Forest Fires in Open Marantaceae Forests was launched by Interholco in early 2016, to see how best to address the impact of extreme drought and fire on open canopy Marantaceae forests located in the Forest Management Unit (FMU) that the company manages in the Republic of Congo.

In agreement with the local communities, Interholco established a ‘Procedure for fire-risk prevention and management in FMU Ngombé’, to reduce fire risk, increase monitoring efficiency of fire-prone areas and thus ensure the safety and protection of people, wildlife and forest values and services.

Interholco’s procedure relies on monitoring flights covering the entire surface of the FMU, as part of the PROGEPP wildlife protection project. In addition, contacts have been established with the WRI/UMD Glad research institute in order to receive regular monitoring by satellite images.

Integral to the procedure are awareness-raising activities in the concerned villages/communities, in order to alert them to the danger of spreading forest fires, coupled with safety training in case of a fire emergency.

Whilst no fire hotspots were detected in 2017, well over 100 meetings were carried out at regular intervals with local communities and indigenous peoples and awareness-raising was provided particularly to villages located in close proximity to fire-prone areas, such as open Marantaceae forests.

By means of our continuous contact with WRI, in June 2018 forest loss of about 2 km2 was detected South of the FMU thanks to Glad satellite alerts. The origin is still unknown. A field mission is going to ascertain the cause, as no fire incidences were reported by the WRI/UMD Glad monitoring tools. Due to the inaccessibility of the open Marantaceae forests and their distance, being a non-harvested region, it will take several days to reach the area.

It has already been established that the forest loss took place in the same large remote area that was lost to fire in the late 1960s. The Working Group had concluded that the origin and dynamics of the open Marantaceae forests are the result of regular fire incidence over hundreds of years, in the same way as fire is part of open Savanna ecosystems.

UMD Glad Alerts and WRI Global Forest Watch provide robust new tools to monitor forest loss and fire incidences, which in view of climate change, might become more relevant also in the relatively humid Central African forests.

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