It is estimated that approximately 4% of the world’s vegetated land surface gets burned annually, resulting in 250 megatons of carbonized plants.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Vienna revealed that there are elevated concentrations of EPFR or environmentally persistent free radicals in the charcoal, which lasts up to five years. These radicals can create reactive substances that has the ability to harm living organisms including plants.

According to lead researcher Gabriel Sigmund, these EPFR are correlated with harmful effects on our health and the ecosystem. Furthermore, they can also be potential origins of reactive oxygen species (ROS) which induces oxidative stress at a cellular level that can hinder the ability of plants to germinate.

The study shows that out of all the 60 charcoal samples derived from ten different wild fires, the scientists found concentrations of EPFR that was ten to a thousand times more compared to the average. Moreover, the EPFR was still stable even after an estimate of five years based on samples that was collected in the same location years after the fire.

Need to Further Study the Potential Impact of EPFR on Ecosystems

According to co-author Thilo Hofmann, these EPFR will significantly create greater impact for longer durations when it is more stable. Moreover, Sigmund stated that the researchers are planning for future studies that will figure out what other consequences will arise for the environment. This includes questions on how it affects the ecosystem, and the extent in the microorganisms’ stress factor.