Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scorched Earth: The past, present and future of human influences on wildfires

Date:
September 15, 2011
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Fires have continuously occurred on Earth for at least the last 400 million years. But since the 1970s, the frequency of wildfires has increased at least four-fold, and the total size of burn areas has increased at least six-fold in the western United States alone. Steadily rising, the US's bill for fighting wildfires now totals $1.5 billion per year.

Satellite studies indicate that more than 30 percent of the Earth is subjected to frequent fires.
Credit: NOAA

Fires have continuously occurred on Earth for at least the last 400 million years. But since the 1970s, the frequency of wildfires has increased at least four-fold, and the total size of burn areas has increased at least six-fold in the western United States alone. Steadily rising, the U.S.'s bill for fighting wildfires now totals $1.5 billion per year.

How much of the increases in the frequency and size of fires are due to human activities? No one knows for sure. But a paper in this week's issue of the Journal of Biogeography puts the role of fire in natural ecosystems into context and provides support for efforts to plan for future risks from wildfires.

Produced by an international team of researchers, the paper presents a new framework for considering wildfires based on Earth's pre-human fire history, ways that humans have historically used and managed fire and ways that they currently do so. "We need to look into the past to understand our current and future relationship with fire activity," says Jennifer Balch of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis.

This research emphasizes the importance of understanding the relative influences of climate, human ignition sources and cultural practices in particular environments in order to design sustainable fire management practices that protect human health, property and ecosystems.

This research was partially funded by the National Science Foundation.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. David M. J. S. Bowman, Jennifer Balch, Paulo Artaxo, William J. Bond, Mark A. Cochrane, Carla M. D’Antonio, Ruth DeFries, Fay H. Johnston, Jon E. Keeley, Meg A. Krawchuk, Christian A. Kull, Michelle Mack, Max A. Moritz, Stephen Pyne, Christopher I. Roos, Andrew C. Scott, Navjot S. Sodhi, Thomas W. Swetnam. The human dimension of fire regimes on Earth. Journal of Biogeography, 2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02595.x

Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Scorched Earth: The past, present and future of human influences on wildfires." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915113756.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2011, September 15). Scorched Earth: The past, present and future of human influences on wildfires. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915113756.htm
National Science Foundation. "Scorched Earth: The past, present and future of human influences on wildfires." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110915113756.htm (accessed July 28, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Monday, July 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming

AP (July 28, 2014) AP Investigation: As the Obama administration weans the country off dirty fuels, energy companies are ramping-up overseas coal exports at a heavy price. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Trees Could Save More Than 850 Lives Each Year

Newsy (July 27, 2014) A national study conducted by the USDA Forest Service found that trees collectively save more than 850 lives on an annual basis. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Phoenix Thunderstorm Creates Giant Wall of Dust

Phoenix Thunderstorm Creates Giant Wall of Dust

Reuters - US Online Video (July 26, 2014) A giant wall of dust slowly moves north over the Phoenix area after a summer monsoon thunderstorm. Mana Rabiee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Researchers Analyze the Evolving Human Relationship With Fire

Sep. 14, 2011 Humanity's relationship to fire -- including wildfires, burning of fossil fuels, controlled burns and human-caused fire -- is the focus of a report by an international team of ... read more
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins