Wildfire Impact On Ecosystems

Before we start understanding wildfire impact on ecosystems, let’s understand “wildfire.” Wildfire is an uncontrolled movement of fire inside forests and represents one of the most destructive natural forces. Annually, about 50,000 forest fires are registered in the world which takes an average of about 400,000 ha of forest.

The condition for the outbreak of a wildfire is to provide three basic elements(“Fire triangle”):

  1. Oxygen
  2. Thermal source
  3. Fuel material

With warmer days, people spend more and more their free time in nature. Ecologically aware, they try to keep the place where they were, in a better condition than the one they found. Unfortunately, more people behave irresponsibly in nature, forgetting that at high temperatures even a cigarette butt is enough to cause a fire of enormous proportions. The consequences of forest fires to the environment and ecosystems are unimaginable, and apart from trees, the most numerous victims of these disasters are wild animals.

The devastating effects of wildfires affect wildlife in many ways. In addition to directly threatening their life and health, wildfires permanently destroy their nest, natural habitats,and food sources. Excluding situations in which the fire occurred quite accidentally, due to extremely high temperatures, there is no doubt that the only culprit for such events is a man. Therefore, the question arises as to whether and under what conditions will a person be responsible for the forest fire and how are those who caused it, will be punished?

Wildfires are categorized into three types:

  1. Fires of the soil, where only a layer of humus burns, but not surface vegetation.
  2. Surface fires are burning bushes and fallen leaves.
  3. The third manifestation of wildfires categorizes the burning of whole trees. Very often two or three types co-occur in one space,and their causes can be different.

Most wildfires are the result of human negligence or pyromania. Lightning causes a smaller number. Weather conditions in many ways determine the vulnerability of one area to the fire. The most important factors influencing the occurrence of fire are temperature, humidity and amount of rainfall during the year. These factors affect the speed and percentage of drying of flammable materials and, consequently, the flammability of forests. The speed and direction of the wind change the rate of drying and spreading forest fires due to the higher inflow of oxygen. The level of fire hazard can be predicted by considering various climatic conditions and their elements and correlating with the observed flammability of branches and leaves on the ground; if the conditions are extreme, access to unauthorized persons in such forests is strictly prohibited.

Many countries have detailed forest fire protection programs, all of which are based on prevention, fire-fighting measures and the use of controlled fire to manage land and forests. Thus, although organizations involved in the fight against wildfires are activated in all cases, some fires need to be monitored only because they are a natural part of the ecosystem. The absolute absence of fire can cause unwanted changes in the distribution of some species of plants and trees, and increase the accumulation of leaves and branches on the ground, which can become a fuel for a catastrophic fire of enormous size that is difficult to control. Moreover, in some national parks where the absolute priority is the preservation of natural conditions without human interference, fires caused by electrical discharges do not go away but are only monitored.

Naturally occurring fires are not just an adverse event. After a catastrophic forest fever in 1988, the National Park of Houston in the United States saw the rise of some species of wood and herbaceous plants that adapted to fire. And not only that, fires have been found in some species of worms as a catalyst for reproduction.

One of the most critical aspects of wildfire protection is the fire location system before it is blown up in larger areas. The method of foresters and patrols in motor vehicles is already primarily replaced by airborne surveillance, which detects the first strands of smoke, map them and monitor the further development of the fire.

Wildfire impact on ecosystems is terrible for trees, animals and all sorts of life living in forests. It is essential to be aware how to behave inside a forest, and not to do anything that will jeopardize the ecosystem.