According to a paper published in Science by University of Melbourne, lead by Dr Luke Kelly, in collaboration with 27 international scientists, changes in fire patterns are putting more than 4400 species at risk. The risk is caused by both too much, and too little fire along with seasonal pattern changes.
The species under threat include birds, mammals, dragonflies and legumes that are classified as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable.
“That’s a massive number of plants and animals facing threats associated with fire.”
“Recent fires have ravaged ecosystems where wildfire has traditionally been absent or rare, affecting a diverse range of of systems, from the tropical forests of South America, Australia and Southeast Asia to tundra of the Arctic Circle,” one of the scientists who participated in the paper said.
Extreme fire activity has also been observed in areas which normally see recurring fires as part of the natural cycle, a pattern of longer fire seasons and predictions of increased wildfire activity is shown in the paper.
Some species and ecosystems are threatened when fire doesn’t occur, in African savanna ecosystems, fires are an important part of the lifecycle of plants and animals and less fire activity can lead to shrub encroachment, which displaces wild herbivores such as wildebeest that thrive in open areas.
“Understanding what’s causing changes in different places helps us to find effective solutions that benefit people and nature,” Dr Kelly said.
In order to adapt to the new patterns, “It really is time for new, bolder conservation initiatives,” Dr Kelly said. “Emerging actions include large-scale habitat restoration, reintroductions of mammals that reduce fuels, creation of low-flammability green spaces and letting bushfires burn under the right conditions. The role of people is really important: Indigenous fire stewardship will enhance biodiversity and human well-being in many regions of the world.”
Original Paper: University of Melbourne