Most people who engage in bush burning have good intentions but are unaware of the environmental damage done to crops, trees, and animals.
Farmers utilize this medium to clear their farmlands, which is a frequent practice. What we don’t know is that some plants produce flammable oils that aid in burning; therefore, a combination of the plants present in the farmland and the season adds significantly to the farmland being burned and destroyed.
Read on to understand the effects of bush burning on the environment.
What is Bush Burning?
Bush burning is the process of setting fire to forest plants in order to clear land for cultivation or to remove garbage from the environment. The visible portion of the combustion process is fire.
Combustion is a chemical reaction that involves three elements: oxygen, fuel, and heat. The three must be maintained in order for a fire to start.
The fire will not last if there is heat and fuel but no oxygen. Similarly, if there is oxygen and heat but no fuel, this demonstrates that fire may be controlled even when there is no source of fuel, heat, or air.
When a fire starts, it affects not only humans but also animals, lands, and properties. A forest is a full ecosystem that includes animals, birds, insects, and trees.
The extinction or relocation of these species is frequently caused by bush burning. When it comes to bushfires and wildfires, there are environmental and health repercussions that must be handled.
Furthermore, Bush burning is the use of fire to get rid of the natural plant cover that protects the soil surface. This makes the land vulnerable to the effects of wind, water erosion, and UV light.
Bush burning is bad for the environment, people’s health, and the economy. It involves making air pollution like carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulfide, nitrogen oxide, sulfur, ozone, and other oxidants. From bush burning, you can also get particulate pollutants like dust, fumes, mist, and smoke.
This review talks about the sources and effects of these pollutants on carbon sequestration, as well as how they affect agriculture, the environment, health, and the economy.
Effects of Bush Burning on the Environment
Even though hunters, farmers, and people who raise cattle see bushfires as a way to make a living, experts on the environment are against it because it is very dangerous for people.
Since people need a healthy and safe environment to live in, this trend has made the issue of bushfires a major problem.
Farmers start bushfires when the weather is dry so they can clear the land. As long as there have been trees, there have also been bushfires. Any bushfire causes a lot of damage and kills native plants and animals, which can take a few years to grow back.
People all over the country agree that fire is a useful tool for managing natural vegetation, farming, raising livestock, and other land use systems.
In the past, and sometimes even now, hunters, herders, farmers, and people who smoke cigarettes are the ones who get the most blame for uncontrolled and random bushfires.
Experts have also shown that burning bushes damage the soil. This is because much of the soil can be washed away when root systems die and water runs off.
The problem is made worse by the fact that shallow-rooted plants can’t grow in unstable soil because they need plants like shrubs and bushes to hold the soil in place.
Since bush burning is a major cause of soil erosion, it is clear that this will be a challenge for people.
When you look at the damage that soil erosion has done and other places, you can see that bush burning is a dangerous human activity that should be stopped.
Erosion of the soil can lead to flooding, which can wash away farmland, houses, people, trees, and animals.
Reasons for Bush Burning in the Environment
Setting fires is done to help weeds grow quickly so they can be eaten. During the dry season, when all the grazing fields are dry, Fulani herders set dry grass on fire to make new leaves grow from the roots and rhizomes.
A few days later, when the green grass sprouts, the herders use it to feed the animals. Aside from that, farmers also burn bushes at random to get their farms ready for the rain that comes before the dry season.
Most farmers in Africa only make enough to live on. They use hoes and cutlasses to clear land so that they can farm. Because of this, most farmers burn bushes to make clearing farmland easier.
If you try to burn a small area of land so that you can farm it, the fire could spread to other places. Most of the time, the harmattan wind helps a fire burn faster and spread farther.
This is why it is dangerous to burn bushes at this time of year. Most of these fires are started at night when most of the wild animals have gone to sleep and others are out looking for food.
This kind of hunting, which is mostly done when it’s dry, has caused farmers a lot of trouble because the hunters don’t put out fires after catching their prey.
Instead, they just leave them alone, and the fires grow. Experts have shown that burning bushes hurts the amount of water in the soil.
The Environmental Impacts of Bushfires
Before discussing the environmental and health consequences of bushfires, it is necessary to first understand the variables that contribute to fire spread.
- The wind’s direction
- The area’s slope (fire moves faster uphill than downhill)
- The location’s temperature
- Seasons and times (During harmattan, the leaves are dry and the fire moves more quickly.)
The primary environmental impact of bushfires is deforestation. This effect cannot be overstated because it is the catalyst for other environmental crises.
Deforestation is the removal or felling of trees (Conserve Energy Future, 2017). The incineration of garbage in landfills produces a black material known as soot.
This is the result of the incomplete combustion of organic materials. This is another significant environmental effect of a bushfire that has a harmful impact on human health.
Among the greenhouse gases emitted are hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides.
Other repercussions include the extinction of wildlife and flora, the deterioration of organic soil value, and the loss of animal habitat. Bush burning raises greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change and global warming, eventually diminishing the ozone layer and intensifying the sun’s rays on human skin.
Particulate Matter (PM) is another environmental effect of bushfires; PM 10 in particular is a prominent influence that causes health problems.
The Health Consequences of Bush Burning
- Significant rise in asthma cases.
- Inflammation of the lungs.
- Sputum output has increased (sputum: mucus and bacteria).
- Tightness in the chest.
- A higher risk of pneumonia and acute bronchitis.
- There is a high risk of heat or direct flame burns.
- Heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke.
- Complications of the cardiovascular system.
If you have suggestions on these effects of bush burning on the environment, please leave a comment below.