Fire, one of nature’s primary carbon cycling mechanisms, will be driving atmospheric changes as the world warms.

“Fires require fuel to burn and climate strongly affects the type, quantity and quality of fuel,” says Melita Keywood of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia.

“Reduced water availability associated with drought may also result in drier biomass that is more readily burned in possibly more intense fires...,” added Keywood, who conducted the study with a team of scientists from the U.S., Greece, Italy, Switzerland and Germany.

“In turn, fires influence climate by the emissions to the atmosphere of aerosols and GHG (greenhouse gases), and by affecting the ability of terrestrial ecosystems to sequester carbon,” said Keywood, reports the journal Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology.

Keywood said there is some evidence that fire activity may already be increasing in Western U.S. forests and recent exceptionally intense fire events — Australian Black Saturday fires in 2009 and Russian fires in 2010 — highlight the devastation resulting from extreme weather, according to a CSIRO statement.

“Wildfires and biomass burning are important for a range of international and domestic policies — from air pollution to climate, poverty, security, food supply, and biodiversity,” said Keywood.