Arctic Wildland Fire Ecology Mapping and Monitoring Project
(Arctic FIRE)
Pierre Markuse/Flickr
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Arctic FIRE led by the Gwich'in Council International aims to improve the understanding of fire ecology, the impacts in Arctic States and to communities represented by the Permanent Participants, and to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildland fire. The project seeks to promote the conservation and sustainable use of Arctic flora and fauna by mapping annual acreage burned, and developing an annual digital Arctic Fire Monitoring Journal that includes relevant Arctic fire ecology and fire-related Indigenous Knowledge research, and to evaluate the impacts of wildland fires on Arctic ecosystems, air quality, and climate change.

Wildland Fires are increasing in frequency, intensity, duration and expanding into new areas. The 2016 Fort McMurray Fire in Canada left two dead and caused the evacuation of 88,000 people and incurred $9.9 billion dollars Canadian in damages. Fires in California in 2018 killed 97 and released 68 million tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to all electrical production in the state of California for a year. Wildland Fire has become not only more destructive, but it has become a significant driver of carbon release and thus climate change in its own right. Wildland Fire can also release significant amounts of Black Carbon and have profound effects to air quality generally.

Wildland Fire has had significant impacts on other northern States as well. The 2018 summer season saw unprecedented wildland fire activity in Sweden, the disaster led to calls for aid from European partners, additionally there were fires in Greenland and Chukotka. Russia and the United States have both seen increased fire activity in the north with significant taiga and tundra burns becoming increasingly more common over the last two decades. Additionally, we need to have a greater understanding about the long term impacts of Wildland Fire on northern ecologies particularly with its effect on climate change drivers such as carbon and methane release in the post-fire environment, and its impacts on permafrost and soil stabilization, in order to improve modeling in the future.

Additionally Wildland Fire can have profound effects on indigenous communities, harvest of traditional foods, transportation, and sustainability. Gwich’in communities have been profoundly impacted by Wildland Fire, having more acreage burn in their traditional homelands than in any other region of North America in the last 20 years. Migrating caribou, and other migratory species are affected by Wildland Fire, and there are biodiversity concerns where fire meets critical terrestrial habitats, and that interface needs to be better understood.

 


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