Scientists urge actions to reduce global forest fire carbon emissions

(Xinhua) 11:08, December 08, 2023

SHENYANG, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) on Thursday published the research on carbon emissions from global forest fires, urging effective control of extreme forest fires and the inclusion of resultant emissions into the global carbon accounting system.

In the Blue Book on Forest Fire Carbon Emissions Research (2023), the CAS also called for building a comprehensive and scientific carbon emission monitoring and measurement system.

The blue book included the latest research achievements on global carbon emissions by experts from the Institute of Applied Ecology, the Institute of Earth Environment and the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, all under the CAS.

They have analyzed the distribution and temporal-spatial dynamics of global forest fire carbon emissions, evaluated the carbon emissions from major extreme wildfire events globally and their climatic environmental effects over the past 22 years, and provided recommendations for the management of global forest fire carbon emissions.


Forest fire is a common disturbance process of the forest ecosystem, which significantly affects the composition, structure and succession of forest, thus changing the material cycle and energy flow of the forest ecosystem.

The blue book noted that the average annual area globally affected by forest fires was 46.95 million hectares from 2001 to 2022, about 11 times the average annual area of planted forest growth.

During this period, the total carbon dioxide emissions from global forest fires reached 33.9 billion tonnes, which can increase the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration by 4.35 ppm.

In terms of spatial differences, the carbon dioxide emissions from forest fires in high-latitude coniferous forest regions of the Northern Hemisphere showed a trend of rapid increase, said Zhu Jiaojun, head of the Institute of Applied Ecology.

Frequent extreme forest fires mainly contributed to the increase in global forest fire carbon emissions, according to the blue book.

An extreme forest fire event in Canada in 2023 caused 1.5 billion tonnes of direct carbon dioxide emissions, higher than the overall carbon dioxide emissions from forest fires in the country over the past 22 years, said the blue book when reviewing typical cases of extreme forest fire events around the world.

The blue book emphasized the importance of international research cooperation to expedite basic research and achieve breakthroughs in key technologies. It urged establishing a technical system for forest fire risk identification, forecast, early warning, prevention and control, as well as developing technologies for post-disaster vegetation reconstruction and rapid carbon sink recovery.


The blue book said that China has 5.4 percent of the world's total forest areas, while its forest fire carbon emissions account for 0.65 percent of the global total. Between 2001 and 2022, the country's average annual carbon dioxide emissions from forest fires was 10 million tonnes, showing an obvious downward trend.

"In future studies, we will focus on the fire prevention in shelterbelts," Zhu said.

After decades of afforestation, the country has created the world's largest planted forests, with its forest coverage rate more than doubling from 12 percent in the early 1980s to 24.02 percent last year.

The country's afforestation area reached 960 million mu (64 million hectares) over the past decade. In 2022 alone, the Chinese people planted a total of 3.83 million hectares of new forests, official data showed.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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