Can forest restoration reduce the threat of megafires?

The record-breaking wildfires that engulfed the western United States this year show the danger from global heating and ecosystem decline, but also light up opportunities for forest and landscape restoration to reduce the threat of catastrophic fires.

Altered rainfall patterns are lengthening fire seasons from the Mediterranean to Australia. Record heat and drought are sucking moisture from trees and undergrowth. And some regions are seeing more violent thunderstorms, whose lightning can provide a fateful spark.

Scientists say forest restoration and other natural solutions could provide up to one-third of the mitigation needed to keep global warming below 2°C.

“Anything that combats climate change, including restoring and expanding the store of carbon in forests, is helping to reduce the risk of extreme wildfires,” said Tim Christophersen, head of the Nature for Climate Unit at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Large-scale forest conservation and restoration can also counter extreme wildfire more directly. While intact forests may become more diverse and less fire-prone with age, where forests are degraded restoration can help to accelerate their return to a more natural condition. Read more…

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