Some plants may override the effects of climate change on wildfire occurrence

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Washington, May 2 (ANI): A new study has shown that, in some cases, the types of plants growing in an area could override the effects of climate change on wildfire occurrence.

The study was conducted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist Tom Brown along with Philip Higuera of Montana State University and colleagues.

The researches looked at the direct and indirect impacts of millennial scale climate change on fire occurrence in the south-central Brooks Range in Alaska.

The team looked at historical fire occurrence by analyzing sediments found in the bottom of lakes.

Using the Lab's Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, they carbon dated the deposits in the sediment and reconstructed fire occurrences from 15,000 B.C. to the present.

They then measured the amount of plant parts, such as fossil pollen, to figure out what type of vegetation dominated the area during the different time periods.

Like rings in a tree, different layers of sediment represent different times in the past.

The conclusion was that historical changes fire frequencies coincided with changes in the type of vegetation in the area, more so than to rising temperatures alone.

"If all we did was look at rising temperatures and ignore the vegetation in the area, that wouldn't be a good predictor of the likelihood of wildfires in a particular region," Brown said. "You have to look at the whole picture," he added.

According to Brown, vegetation can alter the direct link between climate and fire by influencing the abundance, structure and moisture content of fuels across space and time.

"There's a complex relationship between fuels and climate," he said. "Vegetation can have a profound impact on fire occurrences that are opposite or independent of climate's direct influence on fire," he added.

In the recent study, the researchers found that changes in climate were less important than changes in vegetation.

The research implies that the impacts of climate change on modern-day fire frequencies could be strongly mediated by changes in vegetation.

Thus, in some cases, the impacts of climate change on fire may be less intuitive than initially perceived.

"This could give fire managers a good indication that vegetation can substantially alter the direct effects of climate change on fire occurrence," Brown said. (ANI)

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