FunNature & AnimalIn Australia fires burned 21% of its forests

In Australia fires burned 21% of its forests

During the summer of 2019-2020, Australia experienced the worst fire season in its history, and the data confirms it. A note published in the journal Nature Climate Change by a team of researchers from the Hawkesbury Environmental Institute of the Australian Western Sydney University reveals that fire has wiped out 21% of the country’s temperate forests.

This figure surpasses the records broken, not only in Australia, but worldwide. “We have analyzed the main forest biomes of Australia, Asia, Africa, Oceania and North and South America to calculate the extent burned each year by forest fires,” explains Matthias Boer, lead author of the article, in a note from press published by the university. “ Each year, fire has burned around 5% of the total forest area both in Australia and on other continents , with somewhat higher percentages of 8-9%, only occasionally recorded in certain very areas. located in Africa and Asia ”, continues the scientist. “However, in the 2019-2020 season, 21% of Australia’s forest area was burned.”

What is the reason why the fires have been so destructive? The key would be in the exceptionally dry spring that the country has experienced, something that would have contributed to increasing the risk of fires. This factor, together with the high temperatures and the presence of strong winds , would have turned out to be a time bomb that helped the uncontrollable spread of the fire over millions of hectares.

Climate change intensifies fire seasons

The most worrying thing is that, far from being an isolated event, it seems that this is what the future holds. ” Climate models had already warned us of this scenario of higher temperatures, longer droughts and extreme fires , and it seems that this future that we feared has arrived earlier than expected,” says the scientist.

Eucalyptus forests burn very easily

The eucalyptus is an indigenous tree of Australia, it is the food of its most emblematic animal species, the koala, and its forests cover millions of hectares in this country. It is a tree that burns very easily, and in fact fire is an element that, under normal conditions, helps maintain the structure of its forests.

In a normal year, the fire would kill mainly the dry litter on the ground, but not the large trees , and the fires would be kept under control due to the presence of troughs with higher humidity in their soil and the south-facing slopes that would prevent the spread of fire, reducing the risk of mega-uncontrolled forest fires.

However, as we have already mentioned, the anomalies in terms of drought and temperature conditions registered in recent years have caused such a quantity of fuel to accumulate that the usual summer fires have turned out to be a real environmental disaster.

“We are talking about an unprecedented event, which had not been observed in any other forest biome in the last twenty years,” concludes the Australian researcher.

Referencia: Boer, M.M., Resco de Dios, V. & Bradstock, R.A. Unprecedented burn area of Australian mega forest fires. Nat. Clim. Chang. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0716-1

 

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