Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Plants may affect the effect of wildfires

05.05.2009
Rising temperatures may lead to more tinder-dry vegetation, but that doesn’t mean there will be a higher risk for wildfires in a particular area.

It all depends on the type of vegetation in the area.

A new study on the cover of the May issue of Ecological Monographs shows that, in some cases, the types of plants growing in an area could override the effects of climate change on wildfire occurrence.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Tom Brown along with Philip Higuera of Montana State University and colleagues looked at the direct and indirect impacts of millennial scale climate change on fire occurrence in the south-central Brooks Range in Alaska.

The team looked at historical fire occurrence by analyzing sediments found in the bottom of lakes.

Using the Lab’s Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, they carbon dated the deposits in the sediment and reconstructed fire occurrences from 15,000 B.C. to the present. They then measured the amount of plant parts, such as fossil pollen, to figure out what type of vegetation dominated the area during the different time periods. Like rings in a tree, different layers of sediment represent different times in the past.

The conclusion: historical changes fire frequencies coincided with changes in the type of vegetation in the area, more so than to rising temperatures alone.

“If all we did was look at rising temperatures and ignore the vegetation in the area, that wouldn’t be a good predictor of the likelihood of wildfires in a particular region,” Brown said. “You have to look at the whole picture.”

Although changing temperatures and moisture content set the stage for changes in wildfire frequency, they can often be trumped by changes in the distribution and abundance of plants.

Earlier studies have shown that the area burned across arctic and boreal regions will increase over the next century as climate change lengthens the fire season, decreases moisture and increases ignition rates. However, vegetation can alter the direct link between climate and fire by influencing the abundance, structure and moisture content of fuels across space and time, Brown said.

“There’s a complex relationship between fuels and climate,” he said. “Vegetation can have a profound impact on fire occurrences that are opposite or independent of climate’s direct influence on fire.”

In the recent study, the researchers found that changes in climate were less important than changes in vegetation. Despite a transition from a cool, dry climate to a warm, dry climate about 10,500 years ago, the researchers found a sharp decline in the frequency of fires. Their sediment cores from that time period revealed a vegetation change from flammable shrubs to fire-resistant deciduous trees.

“In this case, a warmer climate was likely more favorable for fire occurrence, but the development of deciduous trees on the landscape offset this direct climatic effect,” Higuera said.

The research implies that the impacts of climate change on modern-day fire frequencies could be strongly mediated by changes in vegetation. Thus, in some cases, the impacts of climate change on fire may be less intuitive than initially perceived.

“This could give fire managers a good indication that vegetation can substantially alter the direct effects of climate change on fire occurrence,” Brown said.

Other contributors include the University of Washington and the University of Illinois-Urbana.

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Anne Stark | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.llnl.gov

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

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: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>