Climate change driving unprecedented forest fire loss
Climate change driving unprecedented forest fire loss as study provided previously unheard-of levels of detail on how wildfires have developed over the past two decades, claiming an estimated three million more hectares annually (an area the size of Belgium) than in 2001.According to figures released on Wednesday, the equivalent of 16 football fields are now lost worldwide every minute to forest fires that are being accelerated by climate change.
The study provided previously unheard-of levels of detail on how wildfires have developed over the past two decades, claiming an estimated three million more hectares annually (an area the size of Belgium) than in 2001. The analysis revealed that the boreal forests, which encompass most of Russia, Canada, and Alaska and are among the planet’s largest carbon sinks, are where the majority of tree cover loss is taking place. These are fires that completely or largely destroy the forest’s canopy and permanently alter the chemistry of the soil and the forest.
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According to the data, 2021 was one of the worst years for forest fires since the turn of the century, resulting in a loss of tree cover of 9.3 million hectares worldwide.
James McCarthy said, research analyst at Global Forest Watch, “forest fires are getting worse everywhere.” Tens of thousands of hectares of forest have been lost in France, Spain, and Portugal as a result of record fire activity in western Europe thus far in 2022, according to the European Union’s satellite monitoring service, which reported this last week.
According to the researchers, high heat waves that make forests tinder dry are already five times more likely to occur today than they were a century and a half ago, making climate change a “major driver” of rising fire activity. As a result of a “fire-climate feedback loop,” these drier circumstances increase the emissions from fires, which worsen climate change, according to the researchers.
About 70% of the tree cover loss caused by fires over the past two decades happened in boreal areas, most likely as a result of high-latitude regions warming more quickly than the rest of the earth. The number of hectares of tree cover lost to fires in Russia last year was 5.4 million, the greatest amount ever recorded (up 31% from 2020).
Caused of climate change:
According to the study, protracted heat waves were a contributing factor in the record-breaking loss because they would not have been feasible without human-caused climate change. The scientists cautioned that growing climatic changes and fire activity would someday transform boreal forests from a source of carbon emissions into a sink for it.
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In these areas, deforestation and forest degradation are the primary causes of forest loss rather than fire. They urged governments to strengthen the resilience of forests by putting an end to deforestation and restricting local forest management methods like controlled burning, which may quickly get out of hand, especially during dry spells. McCarthy declared that forests are one of our best lines of protection against climate change.
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