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Impact of California Wildfires on Wildlife Habitats Revealed in New Study

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences sheds light on the unprecedented impact of extreme wildfires on wildlife habitats in California. Covering the years 2020 and 2021, which accounted for 58 percent of the area burned in the state from 2012 to 2021, the study underscores the severity of the fires, burning over 19,000 square km of forest vegetation.

The research identifies potential habitat disruption for 508 vertebrate species, with wildfires affecting at least 10 percent of habitats for 100 vertebrate species, including 16 of conservation concern. High-severity fires in these two years impacted 5 percent to 14 percent of these species’ ranges, signaling significant habitat structure changes.

The study attributes the unprecedented scale and severity of the fires to climate change, emphasizing the challenges faced by wildlife ill-equipped to handle such megafires. It advocates for effective forest management practices, like prescribed fires and mechanical thinning, to mitigate severe fire behavior and enhance wildlife habitat resilience.