Millions and millions of acres of land burn each year in the U.S. because of wildfires. There are many ways that wildfires make a big impact on native animal populations.
During wildfires, varieties of smaller animals attempt to outrun the blaze by burrowing or hiding underneath rocks. Afterward, predators know that cover will be scarce for these prey animals and will stalk the burned zone in large numbers, kicking off a feeding frenzy for anybody who’s enterprising enough to wait.
Wildfires are especially hard on young animal populations, who cannot outrun the fire, as well as more mature animals or those who aren’t savvy enough to find a place to wait it out.
The temperature and chemical makeup of streams, rivers and other bodies of water can be greatly altered by wildfires, which can harm fish populations and impact their ability to reproduce.
Wildfires may also increase the amount of water flowing into an area, since there’s less established plant matter to draw it out of the ground and keep it from running down slopes. Landslides can completely remake a native species’ familiar habitat, plus introduce sediment and harmful materials into streams that animals depend on for food.
There are some good reasons to look forward to wildfires, though. Many plant species, like the giant sequoia, have seeds that only take root in the fine layer of ash left behind after a fire. With all of the other plants in the way, these seeds wouldn’t stand a chance of germinating otherwise.
Wildfires disrupt moth-flower relationships, increasing risk of extinctions
New research in Portugal suggests wildfires disrupt unique relationships between flowers and the specialized moths that pollinate them.
In the wake of wildfire, wildflowers take advantage of an ecosystem cleared of larger plant species. Post-fire wildflower blooms prove a boon to daytime pollinators like bees and butterflies, but new research showed moths, which visit flowers at night, aren’t so lucky.
When scientists surveyed moths from sites across Portugal, they found the insects carry a surprising amount of pollen. In the spring, 95 percent of the moths captured and analyzed were carrying pollen. Scientists also found the pollen of 80 percent of the native flower species being carried by surveyed moths.
However, pollen levels measured on moths caught in areas recently scorched by wildfire were five times lower than moths found in fire-free areas.
French authorities say firefighters are trying to contain a wildfire that spread overnight near a small village on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Authorities in Haute-Corse, the prefecture covering the northern part of the island, said strong winds fed 20 wildfires that started in several places on Saturday. More than 1,500 acres were burnt near the town of Calenzana but no damage was caused to houses and no serious injuries have been reported.
The Gell river fire, west of the Tasmanian capital, has now burned through almost 15,000 hectares of bush but no longer posed an immediate risk to properties, the Tasmania Fire Service said. But residents were warned of a risk of embers from the blaze, burning about 20km northwest of the communities.
The bushfire at Rosedale, in Gippsland suspected to be deliberately lit, ripped through more than 10,000 hectares of scrub and forest before it was brought under control about 2.30am Saturday.
Wildfires – Chile
Dozens of wildfires tore through central Chile destroying scores of homes. Local media reported there were 44 wildfires active on Thursday with at least eight more still burning in the Valparaiso region alone. Valparaiso is a coastal area about 100km northwest of Chile’s capital, Santiago.
Perhaps the hardest hit municipality was Limache, where the mayor said some 60 homes were destroyed.
The O’Higgins region south of Valparaiso was also hard hit. In total, local media reported more than 2,600 hectares have burned.
A spate of wildfires across the Garden Route, which have spread from George to the Karatara area, claimed the lives of at least eight people – including a newborn baby and its mother, two children and a toddler – on Monday, and led to the evacuation of hundreds of people.
The Tepee Fire grew to 1,592 acres Friday night, fueled by strong winds. A fire line was established around 60 percent of the blaze, mostly on the western side..
The Willow Fire is estimated at 300 acres, burning south of Pelton Dam and Willow Canyon, about six miles northwest of Madras. Air tankers and a heavy helicopter have been assisting firefighters on the ground. The Willow Fire is now 20 percent contained.
Wildfires – Montana, USA
The Boundary wildfire burning in Montana’s Glacier National Park spilled over into Canada on Friday. Dry and windy conditions flared up fire activity on the blaze at about 3 p.m.
The wildfire then jumped the border into Alberta, burning most of the basin on the southwest-facing slope of Mount Richards and the south- and east-facing slopes of Mount Alderson. The entire wildfire, now burning in the Boundary Creek Valley, Glacier National Park and Water Lakes National Park, is estimated to be 1,100 hectares in size and is considered “out of control.”
Three fires in Rice County are about 70-percent contained but high winds continue to be a problem for crews fighting the fires.
Between seven and eight thousand acres have burned in the fires. One unoccupied home and several outbuildings were also destroyed. At least four Black Hawk helicopters were used to help gain control of the fire.
While the fire is mostly contained, dangerous conditions continue through Friday.
The Big Cypress National Preserve brush fire continues to burn. Meanwhile the massive Faka Union brush fire is burning in the Picayune Strand State Forest. At last check, the nearly 10,500 acre fire is now 95% contained.
The Stateline Fire burning in Union County, north of Clayton, New Mexico, is currently estimated at 21,253 acres, of which 7,160 acres has crossed over into Colorado. The fire started Thursday morning March 8 on private property in New Mexico. There is no immediate threat to structures at this time.
Wildfires – Florida, USA
Saturday’s rains did little to stop the Big Cypress National Preserve brush fire, which has grown to 3,019 acres, closing trails and campgrounds, the National Park Service reported Sunday.
Around 50 fires have been reported across Kansas with high winds and dry conditions on Monday and Tuesday. Crews on Wednesday were still working on a number of fires, and most of them were in some level of containment. The fires have burned more than 25,000 acres. Weather conditions were improving with increased humidity and decreasing winds, but grass is still very dry and people are urged to continue using caution with any sources of fire.
University of Wyoming researchers led a study that discovered that biomass smoke originating from South Africa that drifts over the southeast Atlantic Ocean significantly enhances the brightness of low-level clouds there — creating a reflective process that actually helps cool the Earth and counteract the greenhouse effect.
In their study, the researchers found the smoke comes down and can mix within the clouds. The changed clouds are more reflective of sunlight. Brighter clouds counteract the greenhouse effect. It creates cooling.
For years, scientists determined that smoke, overall, diminishes the clouds’ cooling effect by absorbing light that the clouds beneath the aerosols would otherwise reflect. This new study does not dispute that phenomenon. However, more dominantly, the new study found that smoke and cloud layers are closer to each other than previously thought. This makes the clouds more reflective of light and, thus, accelerates the clouds’ cooling effect. This is due to the tiny aerosol particles from the smoke that serve as the nuclei for the formation of cloud droplets.
Fires were reported in Ellis, Sedgwick, Reno, Harper, and Butler counties. The Kansas Division of Emergency Management reported at least 12 active fires. However, the fires are not extensive and no loss of structures has been reported.
Firefighters have fully contained a 377-acre brush fire that broke out Sunday morning south of Kiowa, burning four homes and five barns.
Wildfires – Scotland
Firefighters have been tackling three wildfires on the island of Barra in the Outer Hebrides. They were joined by coastguard and RNLI volunteers and members of the public to try to extinguish the flames.
Emergency services have also been working to extinguish a three kilometre-long blaze at Portree, on the isle of Skye.
Wildfires that started Monday afternoon in three counties around Abilene are contained this morning, according to authorities.
The Newell Fire off of U.S. Highway 180 about 13 miles west of Albany is “out,” according to the Shackelford County Sheriff’s Office. The fire burned about 2,500 acres.
About 700 acres were burned in Fisher County near farm roads 57 and 419 about 10 miles north of Sweetwater, according to the forest service.
Wildfires – Australia
Strong winds fanned out-of-control bushfires in NSW and Victoria. A blaze started on Boggy Creek Road in Myrrhee near Whitfield on Wednesday afternoon, fanned by strong winds of about 40km/h. More than 250 firefighters battled the fire, along with aircraft, bulldozers and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning vehicles.
Meanwhile water-bombing aircraft were sent out to a fire burning near Barooga Road, about four kilometres north of Mulwala earlier on Wednesday afternoon. NSW Rural Fire Service said the fire had been burning in a south-easterly direction under strong, north to westerly winds ranging from 40 to 60 kilometres per hour.
A wildfire ignited mines laid by the Cuban military decades ago and jumped the fence line at the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay on Thursday, threatening buildings and forcing evacuations of six neighborhoods for much of the day. No one was injured.