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Global increase in wildfire risk due to climate-driven declines in fuel moisture


Ellis, TM and Bowman, DMJS and Jain, P and Flannigan, MD and Williamson, GJ, Global increase in wildfire risk due to climate-driven declines in fuel moisture, Global Change Biology Article 16006. ISSN 1354-1013 (2021) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

DOI: doi:10.1111/gcb.16006


There is mounting concern that global wildfire activity is shifting in frequency, intensity, and seasonality in response to climate change. Fuel moisture provides a powerful means of detecting changing fire potential. Here, we use global burned area, weather reanalysis data, and the Canadian fire weather index system to calculate fuel moisture trends for multiscale biogeographic regions across a gradient in vegetation productivity. We quantify the proportion of days in the local fire season between 1979 and 2019, where fuel moisture content is below a critical threshold indicating extreme fire potential. We then associate fuel moisture trends over that period to vegetation productivity and comment on its implications for projected anthropogenic climate change. Overall, there is a strong drying trend across realms, biomes, and the productivity gradient. Even where a wetting trend is observed, this often indicates a trend toward increasing fire activity due to an expected increase in fuel production. The detected trends across the productivity gradient lead us to conclude global fire activity will increase with anthropogenic climate change.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:fire, climate, fuel, moisture, climate change, climate reanalysis, fire risk, fuel moisture, net primary productivity, pyrogeography, wildfire
Research Division:Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences
Research Group:Forestry sciences
Research Field:Forestry fire management
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Ecosystem adaptation to climate change
UTAS Author:Ellis, TM (Mr Todd Ellis)
UTAS Author:Bowman, DMJS (Professor David Bowman)
UTAS Author:Williamson, GJ (Dr Grant Williamson)
ID Code:148100
Year Published:2021
Web of Science® Times Cited:18
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2021-12-03
Last Modified:2022-08-19

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