Forest Fires, Terra Nullius, and Mercury in Fish

Today we talk to a researcher who is investigating how climate change is affecting the way that wild fires interact with forest ecosystems, we explore the colonial concept of Terra Nullius and how it ties in with modern environmental issues, and we hear from a biologist who is studying the accumulation of mercury in the fish we eat. All that, plus your wrap up of the week’s news headlines, on today’s edition of Terra Informa.

Download this week’s show.

The glow of a ground fire illuminates the canopy of a pine forest against the black night sky.

Professor Jill Johnstone has found that with climate change increasing the frequency of fires, they’re  having significant new impacts on our forests. Photo by the US Department of Agriculture.

Terra Nullius
What is the Doctrine of Discovery or terra nullius? Today on the first episode of Decolonize Your Mind, a segment that looks at environmental issues with a decolonizing lens, we ask this question, along with a bunch of others. What’s colonization? And what is the responsibility of environmentalists to look at these kinds of things? We’ll also hear an audio clip from Winona LaDuke, speaking about the impacts of the Doctrine of Discovery and some of her thoughts on empire.

Effect of Climate Change on Forest Fires
Across North America we’re getting into the thick of forest fire season. Have you ever wondered how fires change the forests they burn, though? Or how that might change now that fires are coming more often, and getting more intense? Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips reached University of Saskatchewan ecologist Jill Johnstone in the Yukon to ask her about her research studying fire in forests there. She explained how climate change is making fire a disruptor of boreal forests, rather than a regenerator.

More on this story: sdf, Forest recovery after fire in a changing climate (PDF), Northern Plant Ecology Lab Cookbook, yourYukon

Mercury in Fish
Most people consider fish to be a healthy dinner choice, and for the most part, they’re right. But there is a complication – some fish species can absorb mercury, a toxic heavy metal. Some of this mercury is natural, and some of it is from industrial pollution. Can anything be done? And what species of fish should we be wary of? Today Terra Informa correspondent David Kaczan chats to Tina Willson, a researcher at the University of Wyoming.

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