Anderson said increased fuel loads in the forest are a result of fire suppression, a practice that, when combined with a projection of increasingly drier climates ahead, spells a recipe for increasing disaster for forested ecosystems.
While grazing and fire suppression have kept incidents of wildfires unusually low for most of the last century, the amounts of combustible biomass, temperatures and drought are all rising. The result, Anderson said, is a “fire deficit” in which current conditions and past fire suppression practices have pushed fire regimes out of equilibrium with climate.
“In the near future, since our forests and their fuel loads are not in balance with their natural fire regimens, we can expect to see additional huge fires such as last year’s Wallow Fire that burned 540,000 acres in Arizona and Las Conchas Fire that burned 156,000 acres in New Mexico,” he said.
Anderson and a team of researchers combined resources to examine existing records on charcoal deposits in lakebed sediments, which established a baseline of fire activity throughout the region. The team published its findings last week in the journal of The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The full research study is available online.
“We were able to link fire to changing climate in the West for much of the last 3,000 years,” Anderson said. “With the increase of Euro-Americans in the West, the patterns began to change, first with large fires associated with indiscriminant land clearance, railroad construction and so on, then later with fire suppression.”
Wildfires have been debated for years as either a destructive force of nature that should be eradicated or natural disturbance that keep ecosystems healthy. National policy over the last century had been to respond rapidly to suppress all wildfires, but with increasing occurrence of catastrophic wildfires in the region such practices have come into question. In recent years local forest managers have been given more latitude to evaluate which fires to suppress while ensuring public safety.
Anderson’s research could lead the way to reshaping policy on wildfire response and natural resource management, but he cautioned such a change might be too little too late.
“The fire deficit situation is unsustainable, now and long into the future,” he said. “If it is not addressed quickly—and many of us believe it is too late already—it will likely lead to widespread and long-enduring changes in forest types across the West.”CONTACT:
Cynthia Brown | Newswise Science News
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
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