Alaska wildfire may impact climate

July 29th, 2011 - 1:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 29 (IANS) A massive wildfire on Alaska’s Brooks Mountain Range released 20 times more carbon into the air than what is annually lost from undisturbed tundra, say scientists pointing to the huge toll such incidents take on ecology.

Senior scientist Gauis Shaver from Nature, Marine Biological Lab (MBL) US and colleagues suggest that an Arctic regularly disturbed by fire could mean massive releases of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere, a decrease in carbon stocks on land and a rapid impact on climate.

As such wildfires increase in frequency and size, researchers contend the disturbances may release large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air and transform the frozen, treeless tundra into a different kind of ecosystem less capable of storing carbon, profoundly impacting ecology.

Arctic tundra landscapes store huge amounts of carbon in cool, wet soils that are insulated by a layer of permanently frozen ground or permafrost, according to an MBL release.

Fire has been almost non-existent in Alaska’s North Slope for thousands of years and the effect of fires on the carbon balance of tundra ecosystems is largely unknown.

However, with warming temperatures over the past half century, the climate in the region is in transition, spurring more thunderstorms, lightning and wildfires.

-Indo-Asian News Service

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