The Republic of Palau comprises 250 islands at the western end of the Caroline Islands, approximately 500 miles due east of the Philippines.

Human habitation and Biodiversity

The island group was settled approximately 3,000 years ago and the current population is over 20,000 centered mostly in the city of Koror.  Largely renowned for its marine ecosystems, Palau's terrestrial ecosystems are also biologically diverse with high rates of species endemism and relatively large tracts of intact tropical rain forest.

EROSION IN RE-PRONE SAVANNA LANDSCAPE ON PALAU. PHOTO: CLAY TRAUERNICHT
Erosion in re-prone savanna landscape on Palau. Credit: Clay Trauernicht
Average mm of rainfall in Koror, Palau by month.
Average mm of rainfall in Koror, Palau by month. Data are from the Western Regional Climate Center.

Human-caused Fire, Ecological Effects and Seasonal Influences

Fire-prone savannas, dominated by native ferns, grasses and shrubs, occupy nearly 15% of Babeldaob, the largest island of Palau.  As elsewhere in Micronesia, these savannas were created and are maintained by intentional burning and create a complex forest-savanna mosaic landscape.  Palau experiences drier conditions annually during March and April, during which fires are most common.  Fire frequency and area burned increased dramatically during the severe drought associated with the 1998 El Niño event (2010 SWARS).

Palau Wildfires

The US Forest Service’s Pacific Island Research center’s Julian Dendy has mapped the extent of wildfires from 2012 – 2022.

Palau Babeldaob Wildfires closeup (2012-2022)

Recent Resources for the Western Pacific

How People, Rainfall and Vegetation Shape Tropical Island Fire Regimes Across Micronesia (Journal of Biogeography, 2023)

January 10, 2024

Authors Clay Trauernicht et al provide the first regional analysis of contemporary wildfire drivers of Pacific Island fire regimes.

When re-vegetating, reduce the spread of invasive species.

November 6, 2023

When re-planting, limit the spread of invasive pests by following these guidelines.

After fire, first things first.

November 5, 2023

In the aftermath of evacuation and recovery, communities and responders are often dealing with hazardous environmental conditions which call for vigillant public safety and environmental stabilization.