Lack of fire management increases wildfires

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 09 Sep 2011

Countries need to pay more attention to fire management on lands bordering forests in order to prevent the 95 percent of wildfires that originate from human activities in forests and adjacent areas, an international partnership for forests warned today.

Agricultural fires can spread quickly to nearby forests

The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF), which consists of 14 international organizations and secretariats, issued its warning as many countries are experiencing an increasing incidence in the frequency and size of wildfires due to lack of fire management policies and impacts of climate change.

“In many cases the fire starts on agricultural or pasture lands and spreads quickly on nearby forests,” said Pieter van Lierop, an FAO expert on forest fire management. “When people continue to burn rubbish and agricultural waste, clear lands by burning vegetation for agricultural or development purposes, or burn pastures to allow grass to sustain its high productivity, there is always a danger of large-scale vegetation and forest fires particularly under dry and hot weather conditions,” he added. “There are practical things that can be done to reduce the risks of fire escaping from agricultural areas. Continue reading

La Paz to suffer catastrophic drought

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 15 November 2010

Catastrophic drought is on the near-term horizon for the capital city of Bolivia, according to new research into the historical ecology of the Andes.

Lake Titicaca may shrink by as much as 85 percent

If temperatures rise more than 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius (3 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit) above those of modern times, parts of Peru and Bolivia will become a desert-like setting.

The change would be disastrous for the water supply and agricultural capacity of the two million inhabitants of La Paz, Bolivia’s capital city, scientists say.

The results, derived from research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and conducted by scientists affiliated with the Florida Institute of Technology (FIT), appear in the November issue of the journal Global Change Biology.

Climatologist Mark Bush of FIT led a research team investigating a 370,000-year record of climate and vegetation change in Andean ecosystems.

The scientists used fossilized pollen trapped in the sediments of Lake Titicaca, which sits on the border of Peru and Bolivia.

They found that during two of the last three interglacial periods, which occurred between 130,000-115,0000 years ago and 330,000-320,000 years ago, Lake Titicaca shrank by as much as 85 percent.

Adjacent shrubby grasslands were replaced by desert. Continue reading

Cerrado region records 60000 fires in five months

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 October 2010

Brazil’s crucial Cerrado region leads the tally of areas most damaged by a crippling drought in the country, with nearly 60,000 fire outbreaks recorded in the five months to September.

Cerrado. Photo by: Angelika Hofer

The fires, which have increased 350% over the same period in 2009, have devastated large areas of some Cerrado national parks, threaten to cause large scale changes to vegetation cover and are being reflected in a marked rise in respiratory complaints in the human population.

Most fires are attributed to human causes, with many being set illegally – an ever-present factor currently accelerated due to a legislative challenge to Brazil’s Forest Code.

“The explosive increase in the number of fires can be attributed to both climate conditions and deliberate burning by human beings to make way for farmland,” says Mercedes Bustamante, a research professor at the University of Brasilia.

“While this translates into greater CO2 emissions coming from the Cerrado, it’s also reducing the soil’s ability to hold water. In the dry season, this means more droughts, and in the rainy season, more floods. The situation could become even worse if some of the proposed Forest Code reforms are passed.”

Currently, Brazilian law allows the clearing of 80% of forest farms in the Cerrado. Continue reading

Deadly combination highlighted by wildfires

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 23 August 2010

Preveli Crete

Analysis of catastrophic wildfires in Russia and Greece has highlighted a deadly combination of climate change impacts and the neglect of forest management, WWF organizations in the two fire prone countries said today.

In the joint statement, WWF-Russia and WWF-Greece said the catastrophic wildfires that hit Russia during the first two weeks of August awoke the memories of the tragic Greek “black summer” of 2007. Fires have now flared up in Greece, where the national budgetary crisis has seen fire defences downgraded.

“Although the weather did not favour mega-wildfires during June and July, as the 2010 summer ends Greeks witness once more the dramatic ecological consequences of forest fires,” said Demetres Karavellas, Director of WWF Greece.

“Yesterday, we lost to the flames one of the most important forest ecosystems in the Mediterranean, the rare and endemic palm forest of Preveli in Crete.” Continue reading

Russia’s bat population hard hit by fires

Posted by: Saving Water SA (Cape Town, South Africa) – partnered with Water Rhapsody conservation systems – 21 August 2010

The catastrophic wildfires that have swept across Russia this summer have killed at least 50 people and could cost the country’s economy an estimated US$15 billion. But among the hidden victims of the fires are small, nocturnal animals that are fast losing their habitats. Russia’s bat population – which boasts some 30 species – has been hit especially hard by the flames.

Noctule bats will experience a dramatic loss of habitat long after the wildfires have been contained.

The areas worst affected by the wildfires are concentrated in western Russia, one of the most important breeding and foraging areas for the country’s bat species.

Although no official assessments have been carried out, recent satellite images show that more than one million hectares of forests have been destroyed in western Russia. According to the country’s Ministry of Nature Resources, the fires have already harmed about 40,000 hectares of protected forest areas.

Species such as the Noctule, Leisler’s or Nathusius’ pipistrelle bats roost over summer in tree hollows and will experience a dramatic loss of habitat long after the wildfires have been contained.

“Our thoughts are with the Russian people who are suffering during this crisis,” says Andreas Streit, Executive Secretary of EUROBATS, a UNEP-administered body that promotes bat conservation throughout Europe. “Many people have lost their homes and even entire villages have disappeared. The disappearance of forest habitats adds an extra dimension to the catastrophe. Forest ecosystems are vital for our planet and for many local communities whose lives are intertwined with forests and nature.”

Although the damaged areas account for only a small part of the vast forest surface in Russia, the fires could have devastating consequences for populations of migratory bats. While birds will be mainly affected by air pollution and smoke inhalation, bats will suffer long-term losses of habitats and foraging areas, as well as a decrease of available prey such as insects. Continue reading