It has long been thought that the earth is warming, but recent research suggests it could also be causing increased wildfires, with fires in the US increasing by more than 40% between 2013 and 2015.

A new study published in the journal Science by University of New South Wales (UNSW) researchers found that climate change is causing increased fire activity, with higher temperatures and increased fuel loads driving wildfires.

The study found that as the earth warms, wildfires will become more frequent and more destructive.

“We’ve been seeing more and more fire events as the atmosphere warms and more fires start,” lead author Dr Michael J. Lepp said.

“The question is whether these are driven by human activity, whether they’re driven by climate change or whether they’ve been fuelled by some other source.”

Dr Lepp and his team were interested in how climate change was affecting the fire behaviour of a small group of plants, such as coal, that had been isolated for thousands of years in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

“So the plants that are exposed to fire in the Great Barrier have been exposed to it for a long time,” Dr Lepp told AAP.

“They’ve been there for thousands and thousands of thousands of millions of years.”

The study also looked at how the different types of fire-resistant plants responded to climate change.

“It turns out that the plants are responding in a different way to different types and fuels, but there are some plants that respond more to carbon dioxide, some plants respond more [to] methane,” Dr Lipp said.

He said some of the plants had evolved to better tolerate carbon dioxide and methane, and other plants were adapting to more volatile fuels.

“There are plants that actually can tolerate these fuels and some plants don’t,” he said.

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