Forest Fire Susceptibility and Risk Mapping Using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing (RS) for Protected Areas Case of Horton Plains National Park, Sri Lanka

H. M. B. S. Hearath, M. S. L. R. P. Marasinghe


Horton Plains National Park is a protected Area in the central highlands of SriLanka and is covered by montane grassland and cloud forest. This plateau is rich inbiodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. Horton PlainsNational Park is the headwater of the three major rivers in Sri Lanka, Mahaweli, Kelaniand Walawe. It is one of the main tourist attraction areas of the country. Hence it isutmost important to protect this National Park, considering it‟s ecological, hydrological,and economic significance to the country.

It has been experiencing number of conservation issues including man-madeforest fires from the past to the present. Though the occurrence of forest fires fairly lowthey lead to considerable damages to ecosystem along with number of other negativeconsequences. In the event of a prolonged spell without rain, and a lowering of thewater table in the peat swamp forest, the National Park is very prone to fire. Therefore aprecise evaluation of forest fire problems and the understanding of the areas at fire risksneed to be closer concentration. Decisions on forest fire management can only besatisfactory when a fire hazard zone mapping is available. Geospatial technology,including Remote Sensing (RS) and Geographical Information Systems (GIS), providesthe information and the tools necessary to develop a forest fire susceptibility map inorder to indentify, classify and map fire hazard area.

The objectives of this research study were to identify environmental and humaninduced factors for forest fire hazards in Horton Plains National Park and to identifysusceptible areas for fire hazard and finally to prepare susceptibility and risk map inorder to facilitate decision making for fire hazard control. Data, such as soil type,topography, and other environmental factors were collected and were converted into aspatial database using GIS. Parameters to reflect the factors that influence fireoccurrence, such as fuel type, vegetation cover, temperature, wetness, etc were extracted from Landsat-7 ETM and IRS imagery. Slope and aspect of topography were generatedfrom the digital terrain data of Survey Department. Soil type data was digitized from thesoil map of the Irrigation Department. Forest fire susceptibility was analyzed using thefactors causing forest fires by likelihood ratio method and the spatial relationshipsbetween hotspot-occurrence location and each factors contribution in hotspotoccurrence were derived using the frequency ratio model.

The results derived in this study can help the concerned authorities for forest firemanagement and mitigation in protected areas in Sri Lanka. The models used in thestudy are valid for awareness so that necessary prevention measures can be taken duringthe time of forest fire. In this paper, forest fire susceptibility map was developed inorder to determine the level of severity of forest fire hazards in terms of susceptibility tofire by assessing the relative importance of fire factors and location of fire ignition

Key words: GIS modeling of fire, Protected area management, Fire ecology


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