The retreat of coastlines due to rising sea levels may be accelerated by wildfires, a Duke University researcher has discovered. In the absence of such fires, forests can slow the encroachment, he found. At such fire scenes, though, finger-like patches of marshlands can extend into former forest by as much as several hundred yards. The result is a "punctuated" near-shoreline landscape, the scientist said. Such punctuated advance of the sea is in sharp contrast to the widespread belief that coastal change would be gradual due to sea-level rise.
The researchers findings about the impact of wildfires raise questions about whether fire suppression or controlled periodic burning are the best strategies in areas being gradually inundated by rising seas resulting from global warming, said Benjamin Poulter. He is a research scientist at Dukes Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences as well as a visiting lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Poulter will describe his findings during a 5:45 p.m. talk on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2005, during an Estuarine Research Federation conference at the Marriott Waterside Hotel and Convention Center in Norfolk, Va. His research was mostly funded by NASA.
Monte Basgall | EurekAlert!
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