Smouldering peat fires may contribute to climate change

Sep 24, 2013

New research into smouldering wildfires in the UK has found that they could be a contributor to climate change.

A team from the University of Glasgow's School of Interdisciplinary Studies, studied an area in the Scottish Highlands that had a peat fire which lasted for longer than a month. The wildfires kill all vegetation and effectively sterilise the area.

Wildfires can have impacts that last decades if not centuries. Peat fires, such as the one in this study can also release significant amounts of stored . Based on their measurements, they estimated that in total, the smouldering wildfire burnt between 0.1% and 0.3% of the estimated total amount of carbon sequestered annually by UK . This means that even small events of this nature can release significant quantities of carbon.

Many countries have pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 2050. However, current emission estimates, for example in the UK, do not take into account those from peatlands. The large number of wildfires in Spring 2011 only adds to increasing concern about potential feedbacks between climate, fire frequency, fire severity and carbon fluxes from peatlands. Additionally, there is little evidence of the long and short term effects of wildfires on from peatlands despite the global importance of fire in these systems.

Matt Davies, Lecturer in Environmental Stewardship,said "Smouldering peat fires are difficult to detect due to their and low heat release and the fact that tree canopies remain intact for months afterwards. Our case study is the first of its kind in the UK and shows that even small areas of peat fires can release significant levels of carbon into the atmosphere.

"If similar smouldering fires are underreported in other temperate, forest and tropical peatland regions then emissions from peatland burning may well be a substantially greater issue than currently assumed."

Explore further: Obama readies climate change push at UN summit

More information: www.sciencedirect.com/science/… ii/S0378112713005094

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientist tracks Indonesian carbon emissions

Sep 12, 2013

An ill-fated plan to convert nearly 2.5 million acres of Kalimantan peat swamp forest into rice paddies has contributed to Indonesia becoming the third-largest emitter of carbon, according to SDSU professor ...

Peat fires could accelerate climate change: researchers

Feb 19, 2012

In 1997, a forest fire in Indonesia ignited an area of peatlands that smouldered for months. By the time it was over, the fire had released greenhouse gases equal to 20 to 40 percent of the total worldwide emissions that ...

Recommended for you

Implications for the fate of green fertilizers

13 hours ago

The use of green fertilizers is a practice that has been around since humans first began growing food, but researchers are warning that modern techniques for the creation of these fertilizers could have implications ...

Ditching coal a massive step to climate goal: experts

15 hours ago

Phasing out coal as an electricity source by 2050 would bring the world 0.5 degrees Celsius closer to the UN's targeted cap for climate warming, an analysis said on the eve of Tuesday's UN climate summit.

Monitoring heavy metals using mussels

18 hours ago

A research team in Malaysia has concluded that caged mussels are useful for monitoring heavy metal contamination in coastal waters in the Strait of Johore. Initial results indicate more pollution in the eastern ...

User comments : 0