Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Wildfires and Global Warming

San Diego Declaration : Scientists Say Global
Warming Limits Ability To Manage Wildland Fire
Association for Fire Ecology

Changes in climate will limit humans' ability
to manage wildland fire and apply prescribed
fire across the landscape, according to the
"San Diego Declaration on Climate Change and
Fire Management," released today by the
Association for Fire Ecology, the world's
largest assembly of fire ecologists.

"Under future drought and high heat scenarios,"
the Declaration reads,"fires may become larger
more quickly and be more difficult to manage. 
Fire suppression costs may continue to increase,
with decreasing effectiveness under extreme
fire weather and fuel conditions. Extreme
fire events are likely to occur more

Association President Robin Wills of Oakland,
Calif. said the five-page Declaration is being
submitted for delegate concurrence at
the Third International Fire Ecology and
Management Congress to be held
November 13–17, 2006, in San Diego.

"We're going to see more fire, not less,"
Wills said, "and these increases in wildfire
occurrence and severity are going to be part
of our new reality. We, as a society, must
be prepared to cope with these changes."

"Abrupt climate change can lead to rapid
and continuous changes that disrupt natural
processes and plant communities," reads the
Declaration. "Managers are not safe in
assuming that tomorrow's climate will mimic
that of the last several decades.

"Increased temperatures are projected to
lead to broad-scale alteration of storm tracks
thereby changing precipitation patterns.
Historical data show that such changes
in past millennia were often accompanied
by disruption of fire regimes with major
migration and reorganization of vegetation
at regional and continental scales.

"Some believe that the impacts of climate
change may already be emerging as seen in
more frequent outbreaks of very large fires,
widespread tree die-offs across the southwest
United States, expansive insect infestations
in the Rocky Mountains, and more rapid and
earlier melting of snow packs globally.

"Currently, we are observing wildland
fire conditions previously considered rare,
such as extreme wildfire events (e.g. high
heat release and severe impact to ecosystems),
lengthened wildfire seasons, and large-scale
wildfires in fire-sensitive ecosystems
(e.g. tropical rain forests and arid deserts),"
the Declaration continues. "Research indicates
that climate change has, in part, caused
these trends. Therefore, we are deeply
concerned that wildfire conditions will only
become exacerbated by further climate change."

In the western United States, researchers
recently confirmed an increase in fire season
duration with large forest fires starting
both earlier and later in the year than
in the recent past. "These changes are
correlated with earlier spring snowmelt
dates," the Declaration reads. "The ecological
impacts are wide-reaching because of the
high severity of these fires burning
through heavy fuel loads. With global
emperatures projected to rise throughout
this century, we expect increases in fire
season length and fire size."

Fire Congress Chair Melanie Miller of
Missoula, Mont., said over 500 papers and
120 posters will be officially presented
to around 3,000 attendees, including
250 papers to be received in
31 special sessions at the Congress.
"All of the world's top fire ecologists
are gathering in one place," Miller said.
"We expect this to be the largest
gathering of fire professionals in history."

The "San Diego Declaration on Climate
Change and Fire Management" is available at: The Fire Congress's
official website is at:

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