Hotter Temperatures Could Lead To More Wildfires, Damaged Eco-Systems
Monday, July 2, 2012
Aired 7/2/12 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Guests: Philip Unitt, San Diego Natural History Museum
Matt Rahn, Environmental Sciences, SDSU
As record-high temperatures are noted in thousands of areas across the country this summer, scientists are keeping an eye on the probability of an increased number of wildfires in San Diego and the West.
Plants and animals are already struggling to recover from the 2003 and 2007 catastrophic wildfires in San Diego County. But those fires caused huge changes to the region's fragile eco-systems.
The Cuyamaca Mountains were covered with coniferous Jeffrey Pines until the 2003 Cedar Fire. According to Philip Unitt, curator of the Natural History Department's Department of Birds and Mammals, the Jeffrey Pine has not returned to the area at all.
The loss of the pine means the birds and mammals that depended on those trees no longer have a habitat.
Matt Rahn, of San Diego State University's Environmental Sciences Department, describes what he calls the climate change "Positive Feedback Loop." Increased temperatures lead to more frequent and more intense wildfires, which produce large amounts of carbon emissions, which lead to increased temperatures.