August 22, 2023
Across both Canada and the globe, wildfires have surged in frequency, inflicting massive destruction upon our natural ecosystems, and presenting substantial risks to our communities.
As of late mid-August 2023, almost 14 million hectares, or about 4% of Canada’s forests, have been torched. For context, that’s five times more than the long-term average for a Canadian wildfire season. To help you visualize that, that’s a larger footprint than the entire country of Greece, or nearly the size of four and a half Vancouver Islands.
Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre - Statistics as of August 20, 2023
The causes of wildfires are multifaceted, with climate patterns and human activities playing significant roles.
Climate change has led to hotter, drier conditions, creating an ideal environment for wildfires to ignite and spread. This year's fire season started rapidly due to an outbreak of lightning-triggered blazes mostly in central and western Canada.
Human activities also contribute significantly to wildfires. Careless disposal of cigarettes, uncontrolled campfires, and even sparks from machinery can ignite fires. Changes in land use, such as deforestation and urban development, can alter natural fire regimes, also increasing the likelihood and severity of wildfires.
Natural wildfires are part of many ecosystems' life cycles. They help clear out dead or diseased trees, making room for young plants to grow. These new plants provide food for animals and help maintain a diverse plant population.
One specific benefit of wildfires is their impact on soil health. When organic matter like leaves and wood burn, they release nutrients back into the soil. One such nutrient is nitrogen, a vital component that plants need for growth. Without fires, these nutrients would remain locked up in dead vegetation.
However, it's essential to differentiate between natural or prescribed fires, which are a part of the ecosystem's natural processes, and wildfires caused by human activities, which can be destructive and dangerous.
Fire Safety Regulations: First and foremost, we can prevent wildfires by following fire regulations and best practices. Implementing and enforcing stringent fire safety regulations can significantly reduce the risk of human-caused wildfires. This includes restrictions on open burning during dry seasons and safe disposal of flammable waste.
Community Education and Awareness Programs: Educating communities about the dangers of wildfires and how they can prevent them is essential. This can be achieved through public awareness campaigns, workshops, and school programs.
Land Management and Monitoring Programs: Regular monitoring of high-risk areas can help detect potential fire hazards early. Controlled burns can also be used to remove excess vegetation that might fuel wildfires.
Technological Solutions: Advancements in technology can also aid in wildfire prevention. For instance, satellite imaging or soil sensors can help monitor dry areas.
On a more global level, we need to address climate change to reduce the frequency and the severity of wildfires. This means reducing our carbon footprint by using energy more efficiently, engaging in sustainable practices, participating in climate-advocacy, and supporting clean energy policies.
In the aftermath of a wildfire, the landscape is often a grim tableau of scorched earth and charred remains. The importance of rehabilitating these affected areas cannot be overstated. It's not just about restoring the visual appeal of the landscape; it's about jump-starting the recovery process.
Post-wildfire restoration can be necessary to help ecosystems recover. This involves activities like reseeding burned areas with native plant species and stabilizing soils to prevent erosion. Restoration work helps rebuild habitats for wildlife, enhances water quality, and helps forests resume their role as carbon sinks.
veritree is actively working with several planting partners across North America to help restore and rejuvenate areas that have been impacted by wildfires and require assisted regeneration. This includes sites in Alberta and British Columbia in Canada, as well as Oregon and California in the United States. Contact us to learn how you can get involved.
In conclusion, while wildfires present a severe challenge, they are not insurmountable. Through collective action, informed policy decisions, advances in technology, and sustainable practices, we can mitigate their occurrence and safeguard our future.
September 17th to 24th marked Climate Week NYC 2023, an annual summit that takes place alongside the UN General Assembly. Bringing together leaders from business, government and civil society, the summit is geared towards showcasing global climate action. veritree was fortunate enough to attend and participate in a host of events. Here are some of our takeaways.
the Restorative Coalition is a collective of forward-thinking companies committed to integrating nature restoration into the core of their businesses.