Fire is a vital and natural part of the functioning of numerous forest ecosystems. Humans have used fire for thousands of years as a land management tool. Fire is one of the natural forces that has influenced plant communities over time and as a natural process it serves an important function in maintaining the health of certain ecosystems. However, in the latter part of the twentieth century, changes in the human-fire dynamic and an increase in El Niño frequency have led to a situation where fires are now a major threat to many forests and the biodiversity therein. Tropical rain forests and cloud forests, which typically do not burn on a large scale, were devastated by wildfires during the 1980s and 1990s (FAO, 2001).
Although the ecological impact of fires on forest ecosystems has been investigated across boreal, temperate and tropical biomes, comparatively little attention has been paid to the impact of fires on forest biodiversity, especially for the tropics. For example, of the 36 donor-assisted fire projects carried out or ongoing in Indonesia, a megadiversity country, between 1983 and 1998, only one specifically addressed the impact on biodiversity.