SOCIAL CIRCLE — Talk of threats posed by climate change and global warming is not new. Most have heard how emissions from cars, industry and even wildfires affect the atmosphere. What many don’t know is there is a significant difference between emissions from prescribed burning and wildfires.
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Forestry Commission and the U.S. Forest Service are working to ensure that prescribed fire has little impact on air quality.
DNR says prescribed fire, one of the most effective and economical ways to manage Georgia’s forest lands and ecosystems, is a safe way to apply a natural process that in turn benefits habitat restoration and species recovery.
"In a nutshell, prescribed fires help a forest to absorb more CO2 while a wildfire’s destructive intensity results in forests losing more carbon than they take in through tree growth," said Steve McNulty, a Forest Service research ecologist, describing impacts involving carbon dioxide.
"Climate models for southeast Georgia predict that area is going to get hotter and drier, and that risk of wildfire damage will increase," McNulty said. "Controlled burning is one of the principal controls of wildfires. When wildfires occur, forests that have previously been managed using controlled burning have less ground fuels to support the wildfires. Therefore, the fires burn less intensely and are easier to control and extinguish."
Prescribed fires also release nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium by which trees use to increase their growth and carbon sequestration, or storage of carbon dioxide.
"Global warming is making wildfire inevitable in most of Georgia. Prescribed fire is really the only chance we have to prevent these catastrophic wildfires," said Nathan Klaus, a senior wildlife biologist and burn boss with the DNR.