After receiving twelve hours of solar energy every day, the Serengeti grasslands become a tinderbox, just waiting to be lit.
The vast majority of the African fires currently burning seem to be in grasslands, in exactly the places we expect to see fires at this time of year. These fires are usually lit by cattle farmers as part of their traditional management of the savannahs where their animals graze. Some fires are started to stimulate new growth of nutritious grass for their animals, others are used to control the numbers of parasitic ticks or manage the growth of thorny scrub.
Without fires, many savannahs (and the animals they support) wouldn’t exist, and lighting them is a key management activity in many of the iconic protected areas of Africa. For instance the Serengeti in Tanzania is known worldwide for its safari animals and awe-inspiring wildebeest migration – and our work shows that around half of its grasslands burn each year.