Prof. Merritt Turetsky, an ecosystem ecologist from U of G’s Department of Integrative Biology, spoke to the Washington Post and Gizmodo about the simultaneously burning forest fires in Alaska, northern Canada, Russia and Greenland this summer.
She told the Washington Post it’s unique to see major fires burning on multiple continents at the same time. While fires in the boreal forests of this area are not unique, the concern, she said, is that when they burn for an extended period as these ones have, they can enter deeper soils, melting permafrost and liberating carbon that has been stored for thousands of years.
Turetsky told the Earther column of Gizmodo that while forest fires boreal forests are not new and can be beneficial, climate change is making these fires much more frequent and intense. She sees this year’s fires as part of the long-term trend over the last decade.
Turetsky holds the Canada Research Chair in Integrative Ecology. She investigates the impact of climate change on Canadian and global ecosystems, including the incidence of wildfires, permafrost changes and plant ecology.