Climate Change

Thursday, August 17, 2006


It is well known and taught at any tertiary institutions that the Fynbos region or Mediterranean regions are maintained and regulated by fire intervals of approximately 10 to 20 years. The Fynbos is a rich and beautiful biome that boasts with more than 8500 floral and faunal species which are all situated in the greater part of the Western Cape. It is well known that a positive correlation exist between meteorological conditions and fires. With rapid increase of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses, which subsequently warm up the Earth, Global warming may increase the risk of wildfires by warming and drying the vegetation. Giving the Western Cape’s prolonged dry, windy conditions and expected reduction in rainfall, the combination of Global warming and increase speeds of winds, may or can threaten the flora and fauna (Torn and others 1998; Piñol and others 1998). Wild-fires – particularly those that escape initial containment efforts – also pose a risk to people and property, particularly at the rapidly growing veld-urban interface (Fried and others 2004). An excellent example of this is the fire near Rooi Els of 2005, and some parts of the coastal towns in the Cape Province.

Other countries with similar climate and vegetation are the west coast of America – the chaparral – Spain and Portugal. These countries have lately been in the news because of their runaway wild fire and research centres in these countries with usage of general circulation models (GCM) have predicted atrocious results for these fire prone regions. A double-CO2 climate will lead to changes in weather-related indices of potential fire intensity and rate of spread, increases in fire ignitions and lengthening of the fire season (Fried and others 2004). More and more ecosystems will be affected by the drier conditions which favour veld fires. None is as big as the Amazon. This giant basin, hold approximately 60% of the world’s remaining tropical rainforests (Laurance and Williamson 2001) that plays a crucial part in biodiversity conservation, Carbon storage and Global climate. Due to human migration into this area, forests are cleared to make way for agriculture, which only enhance CO2 in the atmosphere. Under natural conditions, fires in the Amazon basin are few and far in between, but with the help of the El Nino Southern Oscillation causing periods of drought which exacerbated it (fires) to about every 4-7 years (Laurance and Williamson 2001). With the aid of humans fires are becoming more, which means more CO2 into the atmosphere.

If this, the Amazon basin are the lungs of the Earth, and we as humans are smoking it up – then soon we’ll have chronically lung cancer!


Fried JS, Torn MS, Mill E. 2004. The impact of climate change on wildfire severity: A regional forecast for Northern California. Climate Change 64: 169-191.

Laurance WF & Williamson GB. 2001. Positive feedbacks among forest fragmentation, drought, and climate change in the Amazon. Conservation Biology 15 (6): 1529-1535.

Piñol J, Terradas J, Lloret F. 1998. Climate Warming, wildfire hazard and wildfire occurrence in coastal Eastern Spain. Climatic Change 38: 345–357.

Torn MS, Mills E, Fried J. 1998. Will Climate Change Spark More Wildfire Damage? Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Report No. LBNL-42592. 10 p.

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