Scattered fires (red dots) were detected across Madagascar on June 4, 2003, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite. As in many parts of the world, fire is an important agricultural tool for farmers and ranchers on the island. Fire is used to renew cattle pasture, clear fields for planting, control underbrush in forests, reduce habitat for rats and locusts, and maintain the habitat of fire-adapted and economically important plant and tree species.
Fires are not totally beneficial, however. They escape control and burn into unintended locations, and they have been implicated in the island´s numerous environmental challenges: deforestation, soil erosion, and biodiversity loss. Natural resource managers in Madagascar are working to develop fire use plans that integrate appropriate safeguards for the island´s natural resources with fire use that is necessary to maintain traditional ways of life.