Prescribed Forest Burning Cuts Carbon Dioxide Emissions by up to 60 percent, study finds
Every year, wildfires release millions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere – especially in the United States. Researchers have discovered, though, that one way to control carbon dioxide emissions is to ‘fight fire with fire’. In drought-stricken areas such as the western U.S., vast swathes of dry trees and brush left over from previous wildfires act like tinder. One unfortunate lightning strike and millions of acres of forest can erupt into a voracious blaze with the resultant carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere.
Christine Wiedinmyer, an atmospheric chemist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO, along with Matthew Hurteau of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, used data from their research on how wildfires affect air quality to develop a model of prescribed burning that would ultimately result in a significant reduction of carbon dioxide emissions during major forest fires.
Using simulations of wildfires, and prescribed burns, Wiedinmyer and Hurteau concluded that, depending on the particular type of forest system, proper use of prescribed burns could cut carbon dioxide emissions from fires by up to 60 percent. Additionally, prescribed burns can reduce the risk of major wildfires from starting in the first place.