A new study shows that the loss in the carbon storage from Alaska’s soil is directly linked to wildfires. The number of local fires has increased because of the changes in the Arctic climate and the rise in temperatures, thus initiating a vicious circle.
The Devastating Effects of Alaska Wildfires
2015 was Alaska’s record year in wildfires, as more than 5 million acres were affected by fire.
Carbon stored by trees and soil vegetation is released back into the atmosphere during a fire. Moreover, the burning of the plants exposes the permafrost that lies under and creates damages to the soil.
The conclusion of the recently published study shows that the net carbon balance is dangerously affected by the wildfires.
Forest burns lead to the massive releases of methane and carbon dioxide, which are the main elements involved in climate change.
Every year, the wildfires in Alaska emit more greenhouse gases than all the other fires from the states. The warming temperatures is an important factor that favorites spontaneous fire occurrences in the wild.
Alaska’s Flux of Greenhouse Gases
The new geological study analyses the effects of Alaska fires on forests, tundra, and the frozen soil. These natural elements are in turn the primary protectors against climate change.
Alaska’s vegetation and soil store more carbon than all the other US states combined, and they can absorb about 3.7 m tones of carbon each year.
Previous studies have already shown that rising temperatures have a negative impact on the carbon storage in soils and on the glaciers size.
Scientists are thus worried about the impact that the warming temperatures, the ground melting, and changes in the streams of the ocean will affect the greenhouse gas exchange and the carbon storage.
Alaska is also one of the high latitude ecosystems which are considered to be more vulnerable when carbon storage is taken into consideration. Average temperatures are thought to be having a more abrupt increase in temperatures in the next 50 years. In this worst case scenario, scientists calculated that by 2100, Alaska may lose a quarter of its frozen soils.
Until now, Alaska wildfires were considered a side effect of climate change, as their number is increased because of the new conditions brought by the warming temperatures.
The new study shows that in fact, the devastating effects of wildfires add up to the conditions that are favorable to climate warming.
This cycle can only lead to the destruction of the area and perpetuates the risks for larger scale climate changes.
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