3 Aug 2020

Australian Bush Fire2 min read

What is bush fires/forest fire?

  • A forest fire/ bush fire is an unclosed freely spreading combustion, which consumes the natural fuels of a forest that consist of duff, grass, weeds, brush and trees.
  • It is a natural disaster and poses a threat to the forest wealth, disturbs the biodiversity and ecology of a region.
  • Natural fires have been a disturbance of several ecosystems throughout evolution thus plants have adapted to this regime.
  • Though man-made fires have also coexisted in equilibrium with ecosystems for centuries, the unmanaged fire caused by stakeholders, has led to adverse consequences for the diversity and structure of forests.
  • Incidents of forest fire in recent times:
  • El-Nino events and extensive forest fires of Australia in 2010
  • Forest fires of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh in 2016
  • Forest fires of Western Ghats 2015 and 2017
  • California forest fire of 2018
  • Scandinavian forest fire in summers of 2018
  • Amazon forest fire of 2019
  • Australian bush fires, 2019-2020

Australian bush fires:

  • The wildfires that Australia is experiencing are a result of man-induced global warming.
  • More than 5.25 million hectares (13 million acres) of land has been burnt (more than twice the area that burned in the Amazon forest fire of August 2019).
  • Australia saw the hottest and driest season in 2019 with the temperature reaching almost 50 degrees celsius in December.
  • According to reports over 8,000 koalas, which is approximately 30 percent of the total population in mid-North Coast region have been lost to fire.
  • Over 480 million birds, animals and reptiles have already been lost.

Causes for bush fires:

Natural Causes:

  • Lightning which set trees on fire
  • High atmospheric temperatures and dryness (low humidity)
  • In the dry season, friction leading to sparks by rolling stones in the mountainous areas may lead to forest fires
  • In bamboo areas, forest fires may occur by the rubbing together of clumps of dry bamboo.
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • The presence of El Nino conditions affecting the monsoon movements

Man-made causes:

  • Practice of shifting cultivation
  • The use of fires by villagers to ward off wild animals
  • Forest fires are started by smugglers and poachers to hide the stumps of illicit felling.
  • Gatherers of various forest products start small fires to obtain good grazing grass as well as to facilitate gathering of minor forest produce like flowers of Madhuca indica.
  • Accidentally discarded cigarette butts
  • Stubble burning – when these fires are not put out completely, it may spread to the adjoining forest areas.

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