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Climate Change and Wildfires: S. Africa and California

Jul 07, 2015 04:25 PM EDT
A wildfire
New learnings on which areas of South Africa recover faster from wildfires than others may be useful for California.
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Research on South Africa and its wildfire recovery may provide valuable hints for California and other Mediterranean-style climates. Scientists at Yale, University of Connecticut, and University of California recently reported their findings in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In their research, they used more than a decade's worth of daily satellite images to determine that ecosystems of South Africa's Cape Floristic Region recover more quickly from wildfires in warmer winter weather-and following sufficient summer rainfall, according to a release.

They say their model could help predict which ecosystems are most vulnerable to climate change, according to the release.

The scientists examined NASA satellite images of the Cape Floristic Region, which is on Africa's southern tip. Observing that over more than a decade, western areas of that region recovered more slowly from fires than those in the east. The most important variables for recovery rates were average winter temperature and rainfall amount in the summer, according to the release.

 "The study represents a methodological advance in our ability to infer what's going on "under the hood" of ecosystems using data collected from space, Adam M. Wilson, a postdoctoral fellow at Yale said, according to the release. 

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