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Understanding how wildfires impact ecosystems could improve predictions of future climate changes researcher suggests

Understanding how wildfires impact ecosystems could help to improve predictions of future climate changes, according to Dr Kirsten Barrett from the Department of Geography.

Dr Barrett has written an article for Think: Leicester, the University’s platform for independent academic opinion, outlining how wildfires can threaten or destroy human settlements and impact the climate through carbon emissions – and some of the hurdles in preventing fires occurring.

In the article Dr Barrett writes: “Boreal forests constitute the largest forested ecosystem on earth, and although they are generally located in colder regions, they are prone to burning, particularly during hot and dry summers.

“The immediate costs to human society are easier to quantify than the more dispersed costs of future climate changes, but both impacts can have potentially serious consequences. 

“Fires alter forests by changing the amount of carbon stored in vegetation and soils, thereby affecting the amount of carbon in the atmosphere and the risk of additional fire. The change in surface reflectance properties, by char and ash over the short term, and by sustained changes in vegetation type over the long term, also impacts climate.

“To improve our understanding and predictions of future climate changes, we need better information about how wildfires impact boreal ecosystems, and how these effects in turn cause changes in climate."

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