Global forest loss from fires has risen in all climate zones in the 21st century

(ORDO NEWS) — All of the world’s forest biomes saw an increase in forest loss due to fire in the 21st century, averaging 26-29 percent.

Such losses were reduced only in three countries of the world China, Kazakhstan and Great Britain.

The largest losses occur in the boreal forests of Eurasia and North America: 42-45 and 26-27 percent of global losses, respectively. Article published in Frontiers in Remote Sensing.

Rising average air temperatures and increased droughts over the past decades have increased the risk of forest fires.

By the end of the century, the intensity of fires and the duration of their seasons may increase around the world, especially in boreal latitudes.

At the same time, the interaction of social and environmental factors creates uncertainty in estimates and leads to regional differences.

People purposefully put out fires, but their economic activity reduces the resistance of forests to fires, and in taiga forests rare fires are considered part of the normal dynamics of ecosystems.

For some organisms, fires are beneficial at all – you can read more about this in our material “Some people like it hot”.

Scientists led by Alexandra Tyukavina of the University of Maryland at College Park have compiled the first satellite map of forest loss observed from 2001 to 2019 due to fires and other causes, with a resolution of 30 meters.

Global forest loss from fires has risen in all climate zones in the 21st century 2

It turned out that forest losses due to fires amounted to 26-29 percent of the total (previous estimates did not exceed 18-25 percent). Regional estimates range from 2 percent in Africa to 58-61 percent in Australia and Oceania.

By biome, boreal forests have the highest average share of forest loss due to fires (69–73 percent), followed by subtropical (19–22 percent), temperate (17–21 percent) and tropical forests (7–9 percent).

Globally, 68-72 percent of total forest loss due to fire occurs in the boreal zone: 42-45 percent in Eurasian taiga and 26-27 percent in North American taiga.

At the same time, no decrease in forest loss due to fires was observed in any climatic zone – on the contrary, an increase in such losses was noted everywhere, even in the humid tropics.

The countries that did not experience such growth were Indonesia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

Losses of forest due to fires were reduced only in three countries  in China, Kazakhstan and the UK. In other countries, during the 21st century, they grew, most rapidly Canada.

The number of fires by the end of the century may increase for the most unexpected reasons.

For example, in the Arctic, the area of ​​fires caused by lightning strikes on vegetation will increase by 158±96 percent, due to an increase in the frequency of lightning flashes.


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