Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 1:21 EDT
Fires in Eastern Australia
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Fires in Eastern Australia

April 17, 2013
Numerous fires depicted as red dots in this image- continue to rage across Eastern Australia. The coastline seen here extends from above Cairns in the upper right portion of the image to just below Brisbane in the lower right part of the image; the Great Barrier Reef is visible on the right. Natural or "wild" fire is an important natural ecological process, often caused by lightning strikes. Forest fires create a mosaic of patches that contain a variety of tree sizes and ages, which in turn provides greater diversity of habitat for other species. However, forest managers must maintain a delicate balance with regard to fire management. If fires burn too frequently, they pose a risk for humans and for wildlife. If they do not burn frequently enough, fuel loads (such as dead leaves and branches) can accumulate to dangerous levels, so that when fires do occur, they are devastating and uncontrollable. Images such as this one are used by scientists to map the extent of fires and to target smaller areas for more intensive observation.