A new report has confirmed what forest managers have been warning the public about for years: Forest fires are becoming more widespread thanks to climate change.
The report, created by researchers at the University of Maryland, broke down global satellite data and found wildfires were the cause of 26 to 29 percent of global forest loss between 2001 and 2019. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), further analyzes the researchers’ maps to estimate just how many more acres of forests were lost to fires compared with two decades ago.
“We calculated that forest fires now result in 3 million more hectares (~7.4 million acres) of tree cover loss per year compared with 2001 … and accounted for more than one-quarter of all tree cover loss over the past 20 years,” OCHA said.
The researchers also reported that 70 percent of the tree cover lost to fires occurred in boreal forests, with fire-related tree loss increasing 3 percent every year since 2001. The cause of the increase was northern high-latitude areas warming at a faster rate than the rest of the planet, contributing to longer fire seasons.
Tree cover loss from fires in tropical regions also increased by 5 percent per year since 2001, resulting in roughly 15 percent of global tree cover loss from fire over the 20-year period. The loss was reportedly worsened by increasing forest degradation attributed to deforestation and agriculture expansion.
“There is no solution for bringing fire activity back down to historical levels without drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions and breaking the fire-climate feedback loop,” OCHA said in response to the report. “Improving forest resilience by ending deforestation and forest degradation is key to preventing future fires.”
The full report is [HERE].