This section includes the countries that are located between the boreal and subtropical/tropical zones of Asia. The Middle East countries Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and Turkey formally belonged to this region. However, since they are part of the Mediterranean entity of vegetation types and fire regimes, these countries are included in the Europe (Mediterranean) section of this report.
The remaining countries of interest are covered with forest and other vegetation types that are either temperate or include transition types (ecotones), e.g., between temperate and boreal forests, or forest and steppe ecosystems. Fire is often an essential factor determining the characteristic composition and dynamics of these ecosystems. For instance, fires in the southern boreal (hemi-boreal or sub-boreal) forest belt favour the dominance of fire-adapted coniferous trees (Pinus and Larix spp.) at the expense of broadleaved species. At the forest-steppe interface of Central Asia the steppe fires exert a high pressure on the adjoining forests. As a consequence, the steppe-forest belt is characterised by open, fire-adapted stands which are regularly affected by large-scale wildfires.
Most striking is the increase of human-caused wildfires in the steppe and forest ecosystems of Mongolia and China (Inner Mongolia). The political and socio-economic changes in Mongolia during the 1990's are the major reasons for a dramatic increase in wildfire occurrence in the country (Ing 1999). Urban people that look for alternative income sources after the collapse of industrial structures increasingly use forest and steppe resources. Campfires set by inexperienced cattle herders and collectors of non-wood forest products, as well as an increasing amount of road traffickers, are the main cause of escaping wildfires. In 1996-97 Mongolia faced the most serious fire seasons, affecting forested and steppe lands on 10.2 million ha in 1996 (comprised of 2.36 million ha forest) and 12.4 million ha in 1997 (comprised of 2.71 million ha forest). Satellite imagery revealed that in the spring of 1999 the area burned was 3.1 million ha, including 30 000 ha forest (Erdenesaikhan and Erdenetuya 1999).
In the People’s Republic of China, the main fire regions are in Inner Mongolia (with fire features similar to Mongolia), the montane-boreal forest in the Northeast and the tropical South of the country. Advanced fire management systems, including the use of remote sensing for detecting and monitoring fire, are in place in China. Early 1999 was characterised by a severe spring drought that had affected the whole of central Asia and led to widespread forest and steppe fires. Forest fires in China can cause high losses of human lives. Statistics reveal that between 1950 and 1998 an average of 92 human lives were lost; and 551 people were injured each year in wildland fire accidents.
Several analyses of the fire situation are available for Kazakhstan (see country report with references). A burned area map of the fire season 2000 is provided in Figure 3-7. The area of more than one million ha forest and steppe burned suggests that the magnitude of area burned during the last years has been similar to the year 2000.
Figure 3-7 Forest and steppe area burned in Kazakhstan during the fire season 2000 (date of satellite image: 29 September 2000).
The total area burned was 1.024 million ha.
Source: A. Sukhinin, Sukachev Institute for Forest, Fire Laboratory, Krasnoyarsk, Russian Federation.
There are few to no forest fire situation reports available from other central Asian countries. An emergency situation was reported from Afghanistan in 1999. Under the headline “Wildfires burn ten villages - Fires not yet under control” the Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC) on 22 June 1999 provided information on a large fire in the country (GFMC 1999). According to a first report of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on 16 June 1999 a forest fire broke out in the forest of the Sholake valley, Kunar province of Afghanistan, on 12 June 1999 (Ref. OCHA/GVA - 99/0072). In the following days the fire advanced rapidly through Dara Pech valley, some 30 km south of the provincial capital Asadabad. The forest fire destroyed probably more than 1 000 ha, destroyed ten villages and displaced 3 000 people. Four persons and some 300 livestock were killed.
A recent wildland fire analysis of Japan reveals that during the 1990s an annual average of 3 274 forest fires burned 2 311 ha of forest land. (Zorn et al. 2001).
The country reports of the Middle East, Central and East Asia Sub-Region include China, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea and Mongolia.
Erdenesaikhan, N. & Erdenetuya, M. 1999. Forest and steppe fire monitoring in Mongolia using satellite remote sensing. Int.Forest Fire News 21: 75-78.
GFMC. 1999. Afghanistan: Wildfires burn ten villages - Fires not yet under control.
Ing, S.K. 1999. The social conditions of wildfire in Mongolia. Int.Forest Fire News
Zorn, T., Nakayama, K. & Hashiramoto, O. 2001. The forest fire situation in Japan. Int. Forest Fire News, 26.