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Wildfire contribution to desertification at local, regional, and global scales [Chapter 8]

Posted date: July 08, 2019
Publication Year: 
2018
Publication Series: 
Book Chapter
Source: In: Squires, Victor Roy; Ariapour, Ali, eds. Desertification: Desertification: Past, Current and Future Trends. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. p. 199-222.

Abstract

Wildfire is a natural phenomenon that began with the development of terrestrial vegetation in a lightning-filled atmosphere of the Carboniferous Period (307-359 million years before the present). Sediment deposits from that era contain evidence of charcoal from post-fire ash slurry flows. As human populations developed in the Pleistocene and Holocene epochs, mankind transformed fire into one of its oldest tools. Human and naturally ignited fires from lightning altered and steered the trajectories of ecosystem development in most parts of the world. Humans are now the primary source of forest and grass fire ignitions throughout the world. As human populations have increased and industrialized in the past two centuries, fire ignitions and burned areas have increased due to both sheer numbers of people and anthropogenic changes in the global climate. Recent scientific findings have bolstered the hypothesis that climate change is resulting in fire seasons starting earlier, lasting longer, burning greater areas, and being more severe. Computer models point to the Western U.S., Mediterranean nations and Brazil as “hot spots” that will get temperature extremes at their worst. The climatic change to drier and warmer conditions has the potential to aggravate wildfire conditions, resulting in longer fire seasons, larger areas of vegetation consumed, and higher fire severities. Wildfire is now driving desertification in some of the forest lands in the western United States. The areas of wildfire in the Southwest USA have increased dramatically in the past two decades from

Citation

Neary, D. G. 2018. Wildfire contribution to desertification at local, regional, and global scales [Chapter 8]. In: Squires, Victor Roy; Ariapour, Ali, eds. Desertification: Desertification: Past, Current and Future Trends. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers, Inc. p. 199-222.