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Wildfires Worsen with Biodiversity Loss

Wildfire season is well underway for 2017. So far this year, more than 30,000 fires have burned across 3 million acres. On July 10 alone, there were 20 new fires across 15 states, and only seven have been contained. Scholars continue to debate the extent at which biodiversity loss fuels wildfire intensity. Every species contributes to the success of an ecosystem’s survival. The absence of even the smallest organisms can cause devastating effects.

In certain environments, wildfires are a part of the cycle of life, affecting resilient ecosystems on and off for centuries. However, some factors such as intensity and frequency of wildfires are changing. The amplifications are causing more problems for the entire ecosystem, surrounding habitats and human-populated areas as fires spread further than they have in the past.

Scientists are searching for explanations for these intensity and size variations in order to discover how to better manage wildfires.

Several small- and medium-sized digging mammals break up certain material in the soil that helps wildfires continue to grow and spread throughout an area. One study in Australia showed that re-establishing those mammal populations could bring back natural wildfire management.

When a solution involves direct actions to save a species or habitat, it is called active management. Conservationists would try to reintroduce small mammals or nurture the foliage that is needed to restore the population. However, solutions also depend on the passive management, or the changes that occur naturally over time as a result of active management or natural variations.

Scientists continue to search for active management solutions in order to solve wildfire management in the more immediate future.

Sources: Natural Interagency Fire Center and Animal Conservation

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