Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae

The FSM is an independent nation encompassing over 600 high islands and atolls comprising 270 square miles and spanning 1,600 miles east to west across the western Pacific Ocean.  The islands are politically organized among four states associated with the four main island groups of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. 

Human Habitation and Biodiversity

The region was settled by people several thousand years ago and evidence indicates the islands supported much higher population densities than at present with sophisticated agroforestry and fisheries management systems, many of which are still practiced at smaller scales today.  The region is culturally and linguistically diverse and considered a biodiversity hotspot for its both marine and terrestrial ecosystems.

Yap Fires: 2016 – 2020 (credit Julian Dendy, USFS)
Yap, May 2014. Fire Self Extinguished at Forest Edge (Credit: Clay Trauernicht)

Human-caused Fire and Ecological Effects

Fire-prone savannas occupy each of the main high islands in the FSM to varying extents and are derived from a long history of intentional burning by people.  These savannas consist largely of native grasses, ferns, and shrubs and are interspersed among tropical forests and agroforests, forming complex, mosaic landscapes. 

Seasonal and Climate Variability

Yap, the westernmost high island in the FSM, has the largest expanses of savanna vegetation and fires occur annually during the dry season from January to May.  Savanna extent declines along with rainfall seasonality moving eastward towards Chuuk, Pohnpei and Kosrae, but extensive fires have been reported from these moister regions during extreme drought conditions such as occur during El Niño events. 

Annual rainfall by month for Yap, Chuuk, and Pohnpei. Data from Western Regional Climate Center.
Pohnpei, Kosrai, Chuck Land Cover

Yap Wildfires

The US Forest Service’s Pacific Island Research center’s Julian Dendy has mapped the extent of wildfires from 2016 – 2022.

Recent Resources for the Western Pacific

Grazing to Reduce Blazing

April 20, 2016

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Pre-Fire Planning Guide for Hawaii and Pacific Islands

March 7, 2016

Local knowledge of resources like water, road access, and high priority landscape features (crops, endangered species) is critical to minimizing the impacts caused directly by the wildfire as well as…

El Niño and Fire Weather on Pacific Islands

November 16, 2015

Predictions for El Nino’s effects on climate and wildfire in the Pacific (2015). DOWNLOAD PDF