Annual rainfall by month for Korkor Palau. Data from Western Regional Climate Center.
Palau Fires. Credit: Julian Dendy, USFS

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.

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).

EROSION IN RE-PRONE SAVANNA LANDSCAPE ON PALAU. PHOTO: CLAY TRAUERNICHT
Erosion in re-prone savanna landscape on Palau. Credit: Clay Trauernicht

Palau Wildfires

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