By: Robin Bresolin
Summary. Wildfires are a major issue affecting people and ecosystems around the world, especially in the Western states. For most people not living in these states, the issue can be obscure and is not the first thing to come to mind when thinking about climate change and it’s negative impacts. By 2015, the fire season had grown two-and-a-half months longer than it had in the 1970s and is continuing to grow. Today even more acres are burning and the amount of fires are only going to grow. Wildfires in the west are an issue that needs more attention, because the fires are burning more than 3 million acres of land, destroying ecosystems and people’s homes. Some causes of wildfires out west include the droughts and heatwaves due to climate change, which is actually lengthening the time period of the fire season. In fact, 95% of the causes of wildfires are believed to be from climate change. Some scientists are skeptical of that percentage, but the logic that backs the number up is found at the bottom of lakes. For instance, researchers at Montana University drill deep into lakes to pull out ash and charcoal from ancient wildfires, called core samples. The core samples contain record proof of wildfires dating back in time and patterns which prove the connection that more fire results from a warmer climate. Contrary to the negative effects of wildfires from climate change, historic wildfires used to actually be part of a natural and healthy forest life cycle. Although the average person assumes the topic of wildfires to be bad for the environment, consistent trends in past fires prove that fires are essential to ecosystems. Since the beginning of time, wildfires have always been around and used to burn at a healthier rate that was more regulated. They open up land, rejuvenate growth, and help support certain species that live on the burned landscape. In today’s world, wildfires are inevitable, which is why methods to regulate and control fires are important for not only human life, but climate change as well. Simple precautions like installing indoor air filters, cleaning up flammable items around home, and developing houses in less fire-prone areas are methods that help adapt to living with wildfires. So although wildfires can be good for a natural forest life cycle, there can only be so many until a negative impact is left. Wildfires can easily grow out of control and leave devastating effects to a populated area and ecosystem, which shows the power that climate change can leave due to rising temperatures.
Why we should care? Wildfires are only going to increase in size and quantity as climate change continues. It's important to understand the dangers wildfires can cause to not only humans, but also ecosystems.
I found this article interesting because the disaster of wildfires is not something that is commonly talked about in Michigan or at least where I grew up. It’s important for more people to be aware of the devastating impacts wildfires have on ecosystems and humans living in that affected area. In order to promote more awareness about the importance of reducing climate change, the actual consequences must be brought to light. This is another reason why this article stood out to me. Since wildfires aren’t as common in the midwest, not as many people may know about the issue, including myself. I was disturbed to learn more about the rapidly increasing wildfires out west due to rising temperatures. This past July, northern Ontario experienced a ton of wildfires and the haze from the smoke actually drifted all the way to my home. It’s sad to see forests burning to the ground and increasing air pollution. It was also beneficial to learn about easy precautions to take in your everyday life to help prevent wildfires and reduce global temperatures. Overall, wildfires are yet another consequence of climate change, and making small changes in your everyday life goes a long way.
Science in Action.
Dr. Phil Higuera is a Professor of fire ecology at the University of Montana.
Professor Higuera is a director of the fire ecology and paleoecology labs at Montana University. His studies include how fire activity varies with climate change in the present versus the past, and how forest ecosystems respond to these changes. Higuera’s work is relevant to the climate change link to wildfires because he claims fire has always been a natural part of forest life cycles but discovered how human-influenced climate change has altered our ecosystems. One of these alterations is that due to the rapidly changing climate after a fire burns, the same type of forest doesn’t grow back in its place. Higuera’s findings are completely relevant because he gives an example that shows the disturbing effects of wildfires due to climate change.