Sunday, November 9, 2014

Wildfire suppression a losing battle

Tim Radford in the Standard-Examiner via Climate News Network: A research report says towns, rural settlements and even whole societies will become increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic losses unless people learn to live with wildfire, rather than try to fight it.

But Max Moritz, of the College of Natural Resources at the University of California, Berkeley, and research colleagues from the United States and Australia report in Nature journal that they also found evidence from three continents suggesting that government policies can make things worse.

Fire-fighting strategies and land-use practices actually encourage development on inherently hazardous landscapes, and so risk making losses more calamitous in the decades to come as climate change and population increase exacerbate the hazard.

The researchers considered the Mediterranean basin of Europe, the southwestern U.S., and Australia — three regions in which wildfires play a part in the natural management of the ecosystems, and therefore all naturally at risk, and all home to communities badly hit by wildfires in recent years.

The research paper concludes: “The ‘command and control’ approach typically used in fire management neglects the fundamental role that fire regimes have in sustaining biodiversity and key ecosystem services. Unless people view and plan for fire as an inevitable and natural process, it will continue to have serious consequences for both social and ecological systems.”

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