The boreal forest suffers a huge loss of trees due to wildfires

Wildfires have been a major concern in the northernmost latitude boreal forests, suffering more tree loss over the past decade than any other place on Earth.

Data shows that Russian forests are the most affected, losing more trees to fire than any other country, The Guardian reported. Huge amounts of buried carbon dioxide could leak into the vast boreal region that circles the northern hemisphere encompassing parts of Scandinavia, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, South America, scientists warn. Alaska and Canada, among other countries, above the lost trees that take a century to regrow.

According to research released Wednesday by Global Forest Watch, an initiative of the World Resources Institute, the northern boreal forests account for about 70% of all tree loss to fire over the past two decades. About 80 million hectares have been lost in the period 2001 to 2021, of which Russia has lost about 53 million hectares of tree cover to fires since 2001, and Canada has lost about 27 million hectares due to fires during the same period.

“Awakening” to the world

World Resources Institute analyst and report co-author James MacCarthy found the results “very concerning” and “a wake-up call to the world”.

“Forests are our best line of defense against climate change and should be at the top of our list [of priorities]“, he said, adding that the carbon released into the atmosphere by forest fires creates a vicious cycle of climate damage. “These forests can turn from carbon sinks to sources of carbon in the atmosphere.

Wildfires are more common in temperate regions like Europe and the United States, but rapidly warming boreal forests make them more susceptible to catching fire. While one-third to 40% of boreal forest fires are started naturally by lightning, the other main fire source starts with people. Today, the amount of forest destroyed by fires due to droughts and wildfires has increased, The Guardian wrote.

Also read: Winter in the Western Himalayas fluctuates by 50% across the Atlantic Ocean between the Azores and Iceland

Global tree cover loss

Fires account for around a quarter of tree cover loss globally, increasing by around 4% per year, or around 230,000 additional hectares each year. According to the data, about half is caused by larger fires in boreal regions.

Even the tropics owe their loss of trees to fire at around 5% per year or an additional 36,000 hectares.

The loss of trees due to forest fires has increased globally by around 3 million hectares every year since 2001, which represents an additional area the size of Belgium lost every year by fires, by compared to ten years ago. Last year, wildfires scorched an area of ​​trees roughly the size of Thailand and were considered the worst on record.

This year, regions hit hard by record high temperatures include Europe, parts of the United States, South Asia, parts of China and other places around the world.

On the positive side, our knowledge of forest cover loss has improved remarkably over the past decade through the use of satellite imagery for a much more detailed view of our forests.

Related article: Drought-tolerant garden keeps gardeners going amid climate change

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