Cross-cutting themes

Lead researcher

Mauro González

Wildfire activity has increased worldwide during recent decades, partially related to extended droughts, and is expected to continue to increase as the result of climate change

Another major driver of fire activity is variability in meteorological and climate conditions. Climate variability arises primarily from changes in atmospheric circulation in connection with planetary modes such as El Niño and the Antarctic Oscillation.

The study of fire drivers is key to understanding the relationships between different natural and social processes and their interactions. Social drivers include human-caused ignition, fire suppression policy and capacity, land use change and landscape configuration that determines flammability, and fuel load and continuity. Fire has important impacts on landscape and ecosystem structure and functioning, on hydrological and biogeochemical cycles, as well producing emissions.

The increase in fire occurrence in central and southern Chile is demonstrated by the 600.000 ha affected by forest fires during the summer of 2016-2017. These fires affected nine times the mean annual area affected by fire over the 1985-2015 period. This case study can be taken as a research model where key drivers are set to their extremes (i.e. prolonged drought, extremely high temperatures and water deficits, flammable landscape dominated by plantations, fuel load and continuity).

A better understanding of fire regimes is essential for informing and interacting with decision-makers from the public and private sector that are responsible for the prevention and extinction of fires, and to guide forestry management to promote landscapes that are less homogeneous and more resistant and resilient.

Lead researcher

Nicolás Huneeus

Several cities in Chile are experiencing poor air quality (AQ) in terms of PM10 and/or PM2.5. Approximately 60% of the Chilean population is exposed to an annual average PM2.5 concentration greater than that permitted by Chilean environmental regulation.

In the southern central region, atmospheric pollution is largely due to wintertime wood burning for residential heating. Particulate matter, more specifically PM2.5, are known to produce adverse health impacts. Studies have linked PM2.5 to respiratory and cerebrovascular problems and it is estimated that approximately 4,000 premature deaths in Chile can be attributed to air pollution annually.

(CR)2 will work to estimate the impact of urban pollution on health, downwind ecosystems, agricultural productivity, and on the Andean cryosphere. Furthermore, we will explore how this impact is expected to evolve under different emission trajectories and also different governance conditions.

Air pollution and climate change are inextricably linked, and should therefore be addressed in a coordinated manner. In response to this context, our research will not only address the physical links between AQ and climate change in Chile, but will also seek to assess Chilean governance structures and processes in order to jointly address air pollution and climate change and explore measures to increase resilience in the face of these challenges.

Knowledge of the way air pollution conditions may evolve in future scenarios would enable decision makers and policy makers to develop strategies to reduce impacts on society. Furthermore, the integration of interdisciplinary knowledge with community involvement supports urban resilience against climate change and other negative effects of urbanization.