Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fire is important part of global climate change

27.04.2009
Fire must be accounted for as an integral part of climate change, according to 22 authors of an article published in the April 24 issue of the journal Science. The authors determined that intentional deforestation fires alone contribute up to one-fifth of the human-caused increase in emissions of carbon dioxide, a heat-trapping gas that raises global temperature.

The work is the culmination of a meeting supported by the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), both based at UC Santa Barbara and funded by the National Science Foundation.

The authors call on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to fully integrate fire into their assessments of global climate change, and to consider fire-climate feedbacks, which have been largely absent in global models.

The article ties together various threads of knowledge about fire, which have, until now, remained isolated in disparate fields, including ecology, global modeling, physics, anthropology, and climatology.

Increasing numbers of wildfires are influencing climate as well, the authors report. "The tragic fires in Victoria, Australia, emphasize the ubiquity of recent large wildfires and potentially changing fire regimes that are concomitant with anthropogenic climate change," said first author David Bowman, professor at the University of Tasmania. "Our review is both timely and of great relevance globally."

Carbon dioxide is the most important and well-studied greenhouse gas that is emitted by burning plants. Other atmospheric changes caused by fires are increases in the greenhouse gas methane, increased aerosol particulates from smoke, and the changing reflectance of a charred landscape. Consequences of large fires also have huge economic, environmental, and health costs, report the authors.

The authors state, "Earth is intrinsically a flammable planet due to its cover of carbon-rich vegetation, seasonally dry climates, atmospheric oxygen, widespread lightning, and volcano ignitions. Yet, despite the human species' long-held appreciation of this flammability, the global scope of fire has been revealed only recently by satellite observations, available beginning in the 1980s."

They note, however, that satellites cannot adequately capture fire activity in ecosystems with very long fire intervals, or those with highly variable fire activity.

Co-lead author Jennifer Balch, a postdoctoral fellow at NCEAS, explains that there are bigger and more frequent fires from the western U.S. to the tropics. There are "fires where we don't normally see fires," she says, noting that in the humid tropics a lot of deforestation fires are occurring, usually to expand agriculture or cattle ranching. "Wet rainforests have not historically experienced fires at the frequency that they are today. During extreme droughts, such as in 97-98, Amazon wildfires burned through 39,000 square kilometers of forest."

She explains the importance of the article: "This synthesis is a prerequisite for adaptation to the apparent recent intensification of fire feedbacks, which have been exacerbated by climate change, rapid land cover transformation, and exotic species introductions –– that collectively challenge the integrity of entire biomes."

The authors acknowledge that their estimate of fire's influence on climate is just a start, and they highlight major research gaps that must be addressed in order to understand the complete contribution of fire to the climate system.

Balch notes that a holistic fire science is necessary, and points out fire's true importance. "We don't think about fires correctly," she said. "Fire is as elemental as air or water. We live on a fire planet. We are a fire species. Yet, the study of fire has been very fragmented. We know lots about the carbon cycle, the nitrogen cycle, but we know very little about the fire cycle, or how fire cycles through the biosphere."

Gail Gallessich | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ia.ucsb.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists team up on study to save endangered African penguins
16.11.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

nachricht Climate change: Urban trees are growing faster worldwide
13.11.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>