Towards a Fire Early Warning System for Indonesia (ToFEWSI)

Lead Research Organisation: Swansea University
Department Name: School of the Environment and Society

Abstract

The severe El Niño episode of 2015 led to a major and damaging increase in Indonesian peatland fire, highlighting an urgent need to develop operational systems to forecast potentially severe fire events in order to mitigate the impacts of fire and haze. 10 ASEAN states have formally agreed to control peatland and forest fires and urgently need an early fire warning system: a need that we address in this proposal. An operational 'early warning' system for forecasting dangerous burning conditions is within reach using state-of-the-art modelling tools, such as the ECMWF's System 4 seasonal forecast model, but is currently hampered by insufficient knowledge about the influence of fluctuations in peat moisture on fire, particularly during periods of extreme drought, highlighted by the 1997-98 and 2015 El Niño episodes- the strongest and second strongest on record. The majority of present-day fires in Indonesia result from deliberate burning for land clearance, and this human factor means that burning can be influenced by policy and altered land management practice. The translation of scientific research into evidence-based policy and the official regulation and restriction of burning do not work well in Indonesia and new approaches are needed. We plan to both develop a new scientific forecasting tool for fire danger and to influence policy and fire regulations: a novel combination of urgent science and policy research.
This project will develop a suite of climate-, hydrological- and agent-based modelling to predict the incidence of peat fires based on computations and observations for the period 1997 to 2014, and will use the 2015 El Niño event to benchmark the forecast tools. Our working hypothesis is that the increased fire risk associated with dry peat does not trigger appropriate changes in the management practices adopted by local landowners in their use of fire, if there are no incentives provided by policy. Our anticipated outputs are:
* An operational model ofatland fire occurrence, based on a tropical peatland hydrology model, an agent-based model, and seasonal climate data derived from state-of-the-art reanalysis data and seasonal forecasts, and Earth Observation Data.
* An operational early fire warning system for peatlands based on seasonal climate forecasts.
* A more complete understanding of how climate, socio-economic and geographic factors interact to drive peatland fires.
* Evidence-based policy tools for reducing the number of fires and area burned each year in Riau province, Sumatra.
* Evidence-based proposals towards new Indonesian fire reduction management strategies and policy input.
The forecasting system will be web-based and accessible, and will predict the risk of peatland fire occurrence up to three months ahead, enabling sufficient time to spread awareness of the impending risk through the community, and to mobilise fire-fighting resources and other fire prevention measures if required. Consideration of non-climate drivers of peatland fire occurrence is critically important because this will help us capture the spatio-temporal patterns in fire in different regions displaying similar climate regimes. Non-climate driven factors also present the most tractable means to develop mitigation actions. We will combine the results of our work on climate, socio-economic and geographic factors to generate a multi-factorial model for peatland fire occurrence. The model system will be developed in close collaboration with Indonesian stakeholders following the operational needs of agencies, municipalities and companies in the area. Key stakeholders include the Indonesian peatland restoration agency, Indonesia ministry, ASEAN Regional Haze Support Unit, local communities, forestry companies, local and international researchers. The model system will be robust and simple enough for in-house daily use by our Indonesian stakeholders, who will take over the system, and run and maintain it on their own servers.

Planned Impact

Fire is a good servant but a bad master. Fire has long been used in Indonesia on a small scale to clear forest and replace it with an agricultural system that is of greater use for local populations. However, fire is now so prevalent in parts of Indonesia that particulates pose health risks to local people and uncontrolled burning exacerbated by extensive drainage is causing irreversible biological and commercial damage to peatland ecosystems. Indonesian fires also contribute to transnational emission problems of haze particulates and CO2 that threaten current climatic, ecological and socio-economic conditions in southeast Asia and beyond.

ToFEWSI will develop a link between researchers from the UK and Indonesia to generate a scientific policy framework for the control of fire and its atmospheric emissions which are major environmental and health concerns in southeast Asia. Modelling tools embedded within clear policy guidelines will be developed to improve forecasting of fire risk and design regulations that will minimise unnecessary fire damage. Relationships will be strengthened with private, commercial and national stakeholders to obtain a broad consensus over national fire control policy. Work with local and commercial forest fire protection organisations will develop broad support for fire management strategies developed. The project goal of this project is to reduce peatland fire, and hence emissions of dangerous greenhouse and particulate emissions from biomass burning. This project will help Indonesia achieve atmospheric emission goals, alleviate respiratory problems, protect biodiversity and peatlands and contribute to Indonesian sustainable development. At the regional and global levels, this project will demonstrate preemptive and sustainable ways to reduce haze pollution and spikes in emissions occurring in tropical peatlands from fires during El Niño episodes.

Restriction of peatland burning will immediately improve ecosystems, air quality and ealth of local and regional populations. Our fire forecast modelling tools will directly benefit the Indonesian Peatland Management Agency on risks and opportunities for peatland protection and restoration under current and seasonal climate conditions; as well as the ASEAN Haze Coordination and Support Unit regarding impending disastrous haze conditions, leading to clear and beneficial societal and human welfare impacts not only locally, but also regionally e.g. haze-affected cities of Singapore and Kuala Lumpur.

Local farmers in Sumatra can earn far more from oil palm than traditional forms of land-use and this drives rapid forest clearance through both legal and illegal burning (Tata et al 2014). ToFEWSI aims to restrict the use of fire to periods of suitable weather and to locations where land clearance causes the least long-term ecological impact, thereby protecting the ability of the land to deliver ecosystem services such as local food supply in the future. Furthermore, while present economic development in the study area is linked with oil palm cultivation, this is a risky long-term strategy as world markets are likely to change in a medium time-frame and adoption of a wider range of land-use options is a prudent economic strategy. ToFEWSI will engage with local farmers to maintain and develop alternative land-use systems, such as home gardens and agroforestry. These systems keep land and its produce under local control and should be more stable long-term economic options. Home gardens ensure local food security and incorporate social benefits such as family employment. Increased use of forest certification (mandatory and/or voluntary) will improve forest management in Indonesia and may draw attention of foreign consumers to local production conditions in Indonesia (Nurrochmat et al 2016).

References
Tata HL et al. (2014) Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 19:693-713.
Nurrochmat DR et al (2016). Journal of Forest Policy and Economics, 68: 54-64.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Fire in the Earth System: Science & Society. COST Action.
Amount € 600,000 (EUR)
Funding ID COST CA18135. https://www.cost.eu/actions/CA18135/#tabs|Name:overview 
Organisation European Union 
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 04/2019 
End 04/2023
 
Title A novel application of large-scale process-based model (Ecosys) to predict seasonal variations in tropical peatland water table depth (Dr Symon Mezabahuddin, Dr Tadas Nikonovas, Dr Allan Spessa, Dr Muhammad Ali Imron, and Dr Hatma Suryatmojo) 
Description The ecosys peat hydrology model is one of the pioneer models that has been applied to any tropical peatland ecosystem. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The main objectives of the ecosys work are: i) initialise and run the process-based ecosystem model ecosys to study how water table depth and peat moisture profiles change in tropical peatlands across Riau province, Sumatra, in response to drought and land cover change, focusing on the 2015 El-Niño event; and ii) examine whether those changes could have been predicted using seasonal forecasts from ECMWF. 
 
Title Development of the PeatFire model (Dr Muhammad Imron and Indonesian colleagues, Dr Allan Spessa). 
Description PeatFire is individual-based (agent-based) model that simulates the complex interactions among environmental and socio-cultural processes of above and below ground fire occurrences and spreading in a tropical peatland ecosystem. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Paper submitted to International Journal of Wildland Fire 
URL http://peatfiremodel.net/
 
Title New global database of wildfire ignition sources (Dr Tadas Nikonovas, Dr Allan Spessa) 
Description The database was derived aggregating spatially and temporally co-located individual satellite (MODIS) burned area and active fire pixels into fire events. The novelty of the datasets is that it extracts new, and previously unexploited information from existing and well-established EO datasets. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This database will be used by the ToFEWSI project, and will also potentially benefit other teams working in the wildfire forecasting and modelling field. 
 
Title • A pioneering model for probabilistic prediction of wildfire occurrence in Indonesia on seasonal timescales (Dr Tadas Nikonovas, Dr Allan Spessa, Dr Symon Mezabahuddin) 
Description Model developed utilizing ECMWF seasonal climate forecasts and past land cover datasets. The model is based on machine learning methods. 
Type Of Material Computer model/algorithm 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Model will be used to help forecast fire activity across Indonesia as part of a new Fire Early Warning System for the country. 
 
Description BBC interview by Prof. Stefan Doerr Why wildfires are breaking out in the 'wrong' countries 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Interview discussing the fact that while no single factor explains hot weather around the world, experts say climate change is bringing greater and more frequent weather extremes. Fire risk and danger discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.bbc.com/news/world-44941999
 
Description Engagement by Dr Muhammad Ali Imron, Dr Armi Susandi, Prof. Dodik Nurrochmat and Indonesian colleagues with i) National Agency for Disaster Eradication (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana- BNPB), ii) Peatland Restoration Authority (Badan Restorasi Gambut- BRG), and iii) the Riau Centre for Natural Resources Conservation (Balai Besar Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam Riau- BBKSDA) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Promote the ToFEWSI project and its emerging outputs, and to prepare the foundation for helping these organisations better manage fire risk through improved access to accurate and timely forecasts as these project products come on stream later this year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
 
Description Euronews live TV interview. Prof. Stefan Doerr 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Discussion of scientific reasons, including extreme weather and climate change, behind the catastrophic wildfires of Nov. 2018 that destroyed the town of Paradise in California. Fire risk and danger discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Scientific Advisory Committee of the ToFEWSI project comprises i) Prof. David Taylor (NUS), ii) Mr Bernadus Wisnu Widjaja (Deputy for Prevention and Preparedness at the National Agency for Disaster Eradication (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana- BNPB)), and iii) Mr Hartono Prawiratmadja (Secretary of the Peatland Restoration Authority (Badan Restorasi Gambut- BRG)) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The role of the Scientific Advisory Committee is to provide critical expert advice that challenges ToFEWSI project members, keeps us on track with the project goals, and provides a conduit to high-level decision-makers both in Indonesia and wider SE Asia. As such, the SAC will have a very important enabling role to play in maximising the impacts of outputs from the ToFEWSI project going forward.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description TOFEWSI website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact A ToFEWSI website has been developed by Dr Tadas Nikonovas, Dr Allan Spessa, Dr Armi Susandi and colleagues to present project-related activities and main research outputs to wider audience and potential users of the products. The website hosts data sets generated by ToFEWSI and can be accessed at https.tofewsi.github.io. A unique domain will be added later. The website will be linked to the one that has been hosted by Dr Muhammad Ali Imron and colleagues at University Gadjah Mada for several years now (http://peatfiremodel.net/).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://https.tofewsi.github.io