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Science & Tech  (tags: animals, study, science, scientists, safety, environment, investigation, habitat, climate )

- 1711 days ago -
The impacts of the firestorm on wildlife and ecosystems will take much longer to add up, but scientists say there's evidence the intense flames could permanently alter a landscape already being changed by global warming.

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JL A (282)
Sunday July 14, 2013, 9:24 pm
**************Also a petition at the site**************************

Deadly Wildfires Permanently Changing Arizona’s Desert Forest Wildlife Habitats?
from Wildlife Promise
0 7/1/2013 // Miles Grant // Arizona, climate, climate change, extreme weather, Global Warming, wildfires

Dean Peak Wildfire, Arizona (Bureau of Land Management/Herberta Schroeder)

Dean Peak Wildfire, Arizona (Bureau of Land Management/Herberta Schroeder)
America’s worst wildfire-fighting tragedy in generations struck on Sunday as 19 firefighters were killed near Yarnell, Arizona. The impacts of the firestorm on wildlife and ecosystems will take much longer to add up, but scientists say there’s evidence the intense flames could permanently alter a landscape already being changed by global warming.

It’s unclear exactly what happened in the firefighters’ final moments. But with temperatures well above 100 degrees, low humidity and winds gusting to 24 miles an hour, authorities say neither planned escape routes nor emergency shelters could save the elite “hotshot” firefighters from disaster:

“One of the last fail safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective — kinda looks like a foil type — fire-resistant material — with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it,” [Prescott Fire Chief Dan] Fraijo said.

“Under certain conditions there’s usually only sometimes a 50 percent chance that they survive,” he said. “It’s an extreme measure that’s taken under the absolute worst conditions.” [...]

The National Fire Protection Association website lists the last wildland fire to kill more firefighters as the 1933 Griffith Park fire of Los Angeles, which killed 29. The biggest loss of firefighters in U.S. history was 343, killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York.

The fire has already destroyed 50 homes and threatens 250 others. Our hearts go out to all of the victims and their families as we try to understand this terrible tragedy.
Climate Connection

As Dr. Amanda Staudt, National Wildlife Federation climate scientist, has reported, global warming is fueling more intense wildfires. These wildfires are covered in climate change’s fingerprints:

Intense heat. Death Valley just tied the record for hottest June temperature ever recorded in the United States, and before the week is out it’s expected to challenge the global record for highest temperature ever.
Extreme drought. Almost the entire southwestern United States is under severe, extreme or exceptional drought conditions.
Climate invaders. Climate change has left southwestern trees more susceptible to pine bark beetles. The weakened forests become prime targets for wildfires.

President Obama unveiled a plan last week to cut climate pollution and help speed adaptation to the changes we’re already seeing. But for some areas, it may already be too late.
Habitats Forever Changed?

According to a new report from researchers at Oregon State University, the combination of intense fire and changing climate means some areas may never fully recover:

On a global scale, the effects of climate change manifest gradually—oceans rise by millimeters a year, carbon concentrations edge upward in increments of parts per million. But sometimes, when conditions in a certain area reach and breach a climatic “tipping point,” the effects can be abrupt, and transformations can occur rapidly.

If a region has warmed—and dried—above a certain level, fire can act as such a tipping point. Because of overgrowth and drought, many of the fires seen today are larger and more intense than those observed a decade or two ago. Sometimes, rather than simply clearing canopies, underbrush and the older, less healthy trees, these fires wipe out entire sections of forest.

After trees have been cleared, other, more drought-adapted species are able to outcompete new ponderosa seeds and saplings.

Extremely intense wildfires can also cause long-term damage. “Very hot, long-burning fires damage soils by burning organic matter, breaking down soil structure, and reducing water retention,” writes Dr. Doug Inkley, National Wildlife Federation Senior Scientist.
Mexican Gray Wolf. Photo by Jim Clark/US FWS.

Mexican Gray Wolf. Photo by Jim Clark/US FWS.
Wildlife in Peril

The area is home to Tonto National Forest, America’s 5th-largest national forest where dozens of endangered, threatened and sensitive species live, including Bald Eagles, Mexican Gray Wolves and Desert Bighorn Sheep. Some large birds and animals can outrun a fire, while small mammals and reptiles often try to burrow down to escape the flames.

But this wildfire spun into a monster so fast that even some of America’s best firefighters couldn’t escape it. Even if birds and animals can escape the flames, they face long-term threats to their habitat and food sources, which can take decades to recover.
Water Worries

Even when these fires are extinguished, they can leave a long-term threat to the clean water that people, fish and wildlife depend on. Especially when the soil itself is charred in particularly intense fires, erosion is a constant concern. After New Mexico’s Las Conchas Fire in 2011, intense rainstorms led to major flooding and heavy erosion. Sediment and ash were washed downstream into the Rio Grande, affecting drinking water for Albuquerque, the largest city in New Mexico.

Take Action ButtonTell President Obama you support his plan to protect our communities and wildlife from the worst impacts of climate change.

Frances D (156)
Monday July 15, 2013, 2:26 am
signed and noted

Helen Porter (39)
Monday July 15, 2013, 3:08 am
I live in Phoenix, AZ.

I watched the wild fires on TV.

I thought of the animals.

Tears would not put out the fire,.

Terry V (30)
Monday July 15, 2013, 3:48 am

Barbara K (60)
Monday July 15, 2013, 6:12 am
To think of the loss of wildlife in these fires, the baby animals who could not run and the mothers who stayed with them, it is just so sad and heartbreaking to know that not only trees are lost, but much precious wildlife too.

JL A (282)
Monday July 15, 2013, 7:57 am
You are welcome Terry.
You cannot currently send a star to Frances or Zee or Terry or Barbara because you have done so within the last day.

Kit B (276)
Monday July 15, 2013, 9:04 am

I have read also that many of the professional fire fighters feel we are not addressing these fires in an appropriate manner. We need to get ahead of the fires, have people all year clearing under brush and treat the threats from climate change by staying one step ahead. Too many fire fighters are dying from lack of handling these fires in the most advanced ways we can. It was once strange to learn about large wild fires, now it's just expected, so shouldn't we be providing for the best possible safety procedures for the forests, the wild life and the fire fighters.

Past Member (0)
Monday July 15, 2013, 9:05 am
Sad for the animals in these fires there wont be any land left for the survivors
will sign petition

JL A (282)
Monday July 15, 2013, 9:08 am
You cannot currently send a star to Kit because you have done so within the last day.

S Ann D (194)
Monday July 15, 2013, 11:15 pm
Signed and noted. So sad that habitat is gone forever, we won't know the numbers of wildlife gone for yrs. I also hat ewhen humans start these devastating fires. There have been fires like this every year.

Arthur S (88)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 12:19 am
JL, I signed 3 petitions there, hope I got the one you were asking for = all 3 were great and I had missed them. thank you, firestorms are a way of life here in San Diego. I have had to leave my home in a rush.

JL A (282)
Tuesday July 16, 2013, 8:32 am
I have friends who left San Diego for that reason Arthur because they couldn't take it any longer. This morning I awoke to solid smoke in the valley beyond the ridge I look out at--what is in the air I'll be breathing? Does anyone count the animal deaths? So many impacts.
You cannot currently send a star to GGma Sheila because you have done so within the last day.
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