Previous studies have shown that Live Fuel Moisture Content (LFMC) is a crucial driver affecting wildfire occurrence worldwide, but the effect of LFMC in driving wildfire occurrence still remains unexplored over the southwest China ecosystem, an area historically vulnerable to wildfires. To this end, we took 10-years of LFMC dynamics retrieved from Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MODIS) reflectance product using the physical Radiative Transfer Model (RTM) and the wildfire events extracted from the MODIS Burned Area (BA) product to explore the relations between LFMC and forest/grassland fire occurrence across the subtropical highland zone (Cwa) and humid subtropical zone (Cwb) over southwest China. The statistical results of pre-fire LFMC and cumulative burned area show that distinct pre-fire LFMC critical thresholds were identified for Cwa (151.3%, 123.1%, and 51.4% for forest, and 138.1%, 72.8%, and 13.1% for grassland) and Cwb (115.0% and 54.4% for forest, and 137.5%, 69.0%, and 10.6% for grassland) zones. Below these thresholds, the fire occurrence and the burned area increased significantly. Additionally, a significant decreasing trend on LFMC dynamics was found during the days prior to two large fire events, Qiubei forest fire and Lantern Mountain grassland fire that broke during the 2009/2010 and 2015/2016 fire seasons, respectively. The minimum LFMC values reached prior to the fires (49.8% and 17.3%) were close to the lowest critical LFMC thresholds we reported for forest (51.4%) and grassland (13.1%). Further LFMC trend analysis revealed that the regional median LFMC dynamics for the 2009/2010 and 2015/2016 fire seasons were also significantly lower than the 10-year LFMC of the region. Hence, this study demonstrated that the LFMC dynamics explained wildfire occurrence in these fire-prone regions over southwest China, allowing the possibility to develop a new operational wildfire danger forecasting model over this area by considering the satellite-derived LFMC product.
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