5 Ways Wildfires Affect Our Planet

Wildfires are important for ecosystems, but they are dangerous as well.

A wildfire burns behind several houses.

While wildfires ultimately aid regeneration of an ecosystem, they can cause substantial harm as well:

  1. Our health can be affected by wildfires. Air pollution from wildfire fumes can cause respiratory infections, eye irritations, and headaches.
  2. Local economies are often damaged by wildfires.
  3. The ecological impacts can be catastrophic: Loss of biodiversity is a major concern because each species plays a role in maintaining the delicate balance of ecosystems upon which all lives depend. The 2019 Australian bushfire season, for example, killed an estimated 1 billion animals and pushed some to the brink of extinction: 113 species, ranging from invertebrates to mammals, were placed on a list requiring intervention for survival. Most of them saw at least a third of their range burn.
  4. Soil erosion can be worsened by wildfires that denude the land, which may then lead to landslides and mudslides.
  5. A forest’s ability to sequester carbon is reduced by fire, turning it from a carbon sink that hosts greenhouse gases to a carbon source, furthering the effects of climate change. (To learn more, see “Why Bears Ears National Monument Matters.”)

is a contributing editor.

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