Fire season is underway, but the new findings of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and other research group show that fire season may be shorter in the tropics than in temperate zones.
Scientists found that while the number of fires in tropical forests has remained fairly stable over the past 15 years, there have been a significant increase in the number in grasslands.
The research was carried out by scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, University of California, Santa Cruz, and other institutions in collaboration with the WWF.
The WWF is an international organisation dedicated to protecting and preserving nature, particularly biodiversity, which is vital to global and regional food security.
The new findings, published in the journal Nature, found that between 2006 and 2011, fire season increased by 3.8% in temperates and by 4.2% in tropical regions.
However, the average number of wildfires annually in temperatal regions increased by 2.3%.
This was not as much as in the tropical regions where fires increased by just 1.6%.
The WWF has set up an information and engagement programme to help promote climate change and forest management in order to increase awareness and improve resilience.
The WWF said: “Our research shows that climate change has been a major driver of the increase in fire season in temperated regions and that forest fires are now far more common in temperato-type forests than in tropical, tropical forests.
This means that the world is experiencing more fire than in the past, but more is being burnt than ever before.”
Dr Timo Panksepp, a forest fire specialist at the WWF said that the trend is alarming.
“There is a strong link between climate change, climate change driven by human activity, and more fire,” he said.
“Our findings are a wake-up call for the world.
We must urgently take action to reduce our carbon emissions and reduce fire risk.”
He said that we are now seeing the effects of climate change in the grasslands, with a greater number of grass fires in temperatias than in other regions.
“Fire is now more common across the tropic, but it is less common in grassland regions, especially temperate regions,” he added.
Dr Pankmepp said that while climate change is making fire more common, it is not as big of a problem as it was in the 1970s and 1980s.
“We need to reduce the rate of change,” he explained.
“The climate is changing, but so is the human-caused climate change.
That means we need to be able to adapt to it, and to make decisions about fire management.”
Dr Tim Pankselpeter, a climate scientist at the University of Cape Town, said that it is likely that more fire is being driven by the effects from human activity.
“I do not think that we will see the same trends in future,” he told New Scientist.
“The increase in grass fire is a positive development because it is part of a larger picture of fire-related carbon emissions in the atmosphere.”