'9.3 million hectares of tree cover scorched globally in forest fires': Data
This in turn leads to higher emissions from forest fires, further exacerbating climate change and contributing to more fires as part of a fire-climate feedback loop.
Published: 05th September 2022 03:42 AM | Last Updated: 05th September 2022 10:06 AM | A+A A-
NEW DELHI: Forest fires are becoming more widespread, burning nearly twice as much tree cover today as they did 20 years ago and 2021 was one of the worst years for forest fires since the turn of the century, causing an alarming 9.3 million hectares of tree cover loss globally, according to a global data analysis by researchers.
Researchers at the University of Maryland said that climate change is likely a major driver in increasing fire activity as warmer temperatures dry out the landscape and help create the perfect environment for larger, more frequent forest fires. This in turn leads to higher emissions from forest fires, further exacerbating climate change and contributing to more fires as part of a fire-climate feedback loop.
“Extreme heat waves are already 5 times more likely today than they were 150 years ago and are expected to become even more frequent as the planet continues to warm. This feedback loop, combined with the expansion of human activities like agriculture into forested areas, is driving much of the increase in fire activity we see today, including recent record-setting fires in France and other areas in Europe,” the researchers noted.
Agricultural expansion and forest degradation have increased fires in tropical forests. Over the last 20 years, fire-related tree cover loss in the tropics increased at a rate of about 36,000 hectares (around 5 percent) per year and accounted for roughly 15 per cent of the total global increase in tree cover loss from fires.
Wildfire risk in the tropics is further fueled by El Nino events, natural climate cycles that recur every 2-7 years and cause below-average rainfall across parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America. India also recorded the highest number of forest fire alerts in the last three years and fires were responsible for 1.7 percent of tree cover loss in India between 2001 and 2021, according to the Global Forest Watch.
The large majority roughly 70 per cent of all fire-related tree cover loss over the past two decades occurred in boreal regions (northern high-altitude regions like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and most of Sweden and Finland). Though fire is a natural part of how boreal forests function ecologically, fire-related tree cover loss increased by a rate of about 110,000 hectares (3 per cent) per year over the last 20 years — about half the total global increase.
In 2021, Russia saw an astonishing 5.4 million hectares of fire-related tree cover loss, the most recorded in the last 20 years.
Extinguished in forest fires worldwide
The year 2021 was disastrous for forest covers in the world.
Fires were responsible for 1.7% of tree cover loss in India between 2001 and 2021.
This record-breaking loss was due in part to prolonged heat waves.
9.3 million hectares of tree cover loss globally due to forest fires in 2021.
Agricultural expansion and forest degradation have increased fires in tropical forests.
India also recorded the highest number of forest fire alerts in the last three years.