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Study Predicts Five-fold Increase in Regional Wildfires

By Caleb Guedes-Reed

Southern Appalachian forests could see a dramatic rise in land burned by wildfires due to climate change, according to a recent study published in the journal Fire Ecology.

By analyzing different climate scenarios, NC State researchers found that areas experiencing more severe and frequent droughts could witness a nearly fivefold increase in burned land by the end of the century. These fires could change which trees grow, favoring oak trees over others and affecting the biodiversity of the forests.

The study examined portions of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. Chattahoochee-Oconee and Cherokee National Forests had the highest predicted concentrations of wildfire in the study. In March, wildfires spread across a dry Mid-Atlantic, with Virginia and West Virginia witnessing some of the largest fires. On March 21, the Virginia Department of Forestry reported that within the previous 48 hours, firefighters had tackled over 100 wildfires that burned more than 7,500 acres.

The study’s lead author, Zachary Robbins, told the NC State press team that the study wasn’t meant to scare people, but “to use this information to develop management plans so we can make better choices around development, firefighting and restoration activities.”

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2024 — Spring

2024 — Spring

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