This year’s forest inferno in British Columbia is being mirrored on every continent, according to the new study examining the mechanics of tree death.
Each successive fire and the carbon released leads to more drought, crippling the ability of forests to absorb and sequester carbon, said David Galvez, a former researcher at the University of BC and University of Alberta to the Times Colonist Tuesday.
Recent modelling by the Canadian Forest Service predicts climate change is driving up the number of fires and leading to more “fire-conducive weather” in BC. The study — Future burn probability in south-central British Columbia — was published last year by the International Journal of Wildland Fire.
The new meta-analysis — using data from 62 scientists around the world — found that trees in droughty conditions shut pores that let in carbon dioxide in order to conserve moisture and form air bubbles that block water transport within the tree, leading to lethal hydraulic failure and carbon starvation.
According to figures from the Ministry of Lands, Forests and Natural Resource Operations, the years 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015 are in the top 10 for hectares burned since 1950. This year, more than one million hectares of B.C. forest have burned to date, eclipsing a 58-year record.
“What we are seeing in BC is what you expect in the modelling,” said Galvez, who now works for Abattis Bioceuticals, to the Times Colonist. “Four of the worst fire years in the past 70 years have come in the past seven years and that’s amazing.”
“We currently have 154 fires burning across the province, including 20 new fires that have actually just started today,” says Kevin Skrepnek, chief wild- fire information officer with the BC Wildfire Service Thursday, according to My Prince George Now. “We are seeing a number of new fires in the Southeast Fire Centre, many of those the results of lightning activity over the last 24 hours.”
Five additional fires started on Wednesday.
“We’ve had 1099 fires to date and they have burned an estimated 1,026,214 hectares. Estimated costs to date for the BC Wildfire service – $377.4 million dollars.”
The massive Plateau fire, which stretches 130 kilometres from one end to the other, is located on the Chilcotin Plateau, BC, 60 kilometres west of Quesnel, BC, and 60 kilometres northwest of Williams Lake, BC.
The fire was created by the merging of the Chezacut, Tautri, Bishop’s Bluff, Baezaeko, Wentworth Creek, Arc Mountain, and other wildfires. The first of those was discovered on July 7 and the cause is listed as “under investigation.” It is now so big the wildfire management branch has set up two incident command teams at the northern and southern ends to co-ordinate the firefighting efforts of more than 400 firefighters, 25 helicopters and dozens of pieces of heavy equipment.
There are no major communities affected by the blaze but several smaller rural communities in the Cariboo region are under evacuation orders.