Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

First view of a world without fire

25.01.2005


The natural vegetation covering the globe looks like it does because of the climate, doesn’t it? Forests are found where water is abundant and it is not too cold, deserts are found where it is dry. This is what our intuition tells us – but it is not always true.



New research carried out by Bond, Woodward and Midgley from University of Cape Town, University of Sheffield and the South African National Biodiversity Institute of and published in the February 2005 issue of ’New Phytologist’ has shown that a potent force overrides climate in shaping vegetation – fire.

Much of the world is covered by vegetation that seems out of place, for example in Mediterranean regions of South Africa low shrublands are found where rainfall is great enough to support forests. We also know, from satellite imagery, that wildfires are a global phenomenon occurring on all vegetated continents. Bond et al. suspected that fires are common in areas where vegetation does not "fit" the climate. If true, this suggests that fire has a major effect on the ecosystems of the world. So, how different would the world look if we could ’switch fire off’?


A new type of ecosystem model, Dynamic Global Vegetation Models (DGVMs) – developed to answer questions on the link between global climate change and vegetation, was used to simulate a world without fire for this research.

Dr William Bond, University of Cape Town, explains: "For the first time, we have a global estimate of the importance of fire in shaping the natural world: without fire, the extent of closed forests would more than double (from 27% to 56% of the vegetated surface of the world), tropical grasslands and savannas would shrink to less than half (48%) of their current extent and temperate grasslands and shrublands, including the shrublands of Mediterranean climate regions, would shrink to 60% of their current extent."

"Fires destroy property and livelihoods and affect local air quality, but perhaps more importantly, fires destroy above-ground vegetation on a huge scale – burning the critical carbon sinks which form such a fundamental part of the world’s attempts, through the Kyoto protocol, to slow the rate of carbon dioxide increase in atmosphere. Human influences on fire are near universal. We suppress fires in some regions and ignite them in others. However the fire-maintained ecosystems identified in our research have been burning for millions of years and include some of the most biodiverse regions of the world. We need to balance the necessity of using fire in these ecosystems with protecting forests from indiscriminate burning. This issue requires urgent and focused attention from the ecological and geochemical communities if we are to manage the effects of global change on our planet."

Fire changes vegetation quickly, directly and fundamentally – it is now clear from this research that a fundamental understanding of landscape fires is necessary for comprehending the way much of the world works and for projecting the effects of changing human land use and climate on vegetation. Thus, understanding direct climate effects on our biosphere is far from enough for projecting intensifying global change impacts into the future.

William Bond | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.newphytologist.com
http://www.blackwellpublishing.com/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

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 Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

Im Focus: Coping with errors in the quantum age

Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly

The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

The dawn of a new era for genebanks - molecular characterisation of an entire genebank collection

13.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Fish recognize their prey by electric colors

13.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Ultrasound Connects

13.11.2018 | Awards Funding

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>