Fire Control as a Simple Means of Promoting Tropical Forest Restoration

Fire Control as a Simple Means of Promoting Tropical Forest Restoration


This study investigates whether or not fire exclusion allows grasslands to regenerate to forest in a timeframe suitable for reforestation efforts. The researchers compare tree species richness, dbh, diameter at ground height (DGH), and total woody biomass accumulation in 2 plots that have been protected from fire. They measure the size and amount of above ground biomass in plots that have been protected from fire for 12 and 32 years respectively in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

Research Goals & Methods

200 stems (20 stems per species) were harvested and oven dried to determine the dry mass. Allometric relationships were developed between stem diameter (DGH) and aboveground biomass for the species in the study area.

Conclusions & Takeaways

Biomass of tree species in the 12-year-old plot was 34,297kg/ha (n = 1331 measurable stems) compared to 29,860 kg/ha (n = 1256 measurable stems) in the 32-year-old plot. The 12-year old plot had higher biomass in the small dbh size class (0.8-19.9cm) compared to the 32-year old, which had most of its tree biomass from the larger dbh classes. Overall, 50 tree species were identified, at plot level, 24 in the 12-year-plot and 26 in the 32-year plot. There was a high degree of species overlap between the plots, but the number of stems of particular species was different between plots. The results indicate that fire exclusion in the park did result in rapid establishment of trees, suggesting that fire protection is an important management tool for restoring tropical forests. For tree biomass accumulation and species richness this seems to be on a successful trend following fire exclusion and in line with findings from similar studies. The authors conclude that although fire exclusion is a good management practice to restore grasslands to forests, it may require several decades of fire suppression to yield these results. Also given the fiscal constraints of replanting forests in developing countries, this process of fire exclusion is a very practical approach.


Omeja PA, Lwanga JS, Obua J, Chapman CA. Fire Control as a Simple Means of Promoting Tropical Forest Restoration. Tropical Conservation Science. 2011;4:287–299. doi:10.1177/194008291100400307.


  • Makerere University, Faculty of Forestry and Nature Conservation, Kampala, Uganda