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Associated Press

The amount of land burned from wildfires has decreased nearly 25% across the planet in the past two decades, according to a new study. The reason? Humans have increased the acreage on Earth dedicated to growing food, which has substantially reduced the amount of forests and natural spaces that routinely experience fires.

Why it matters: Fires are a natural part of Earth's ecosystem — they clear dead trees from forests and keep plant growth in check in grasslands. The fact that there has been such a precipitous decline in natural fires globally has important ramifications for global warming, conservation and biodiversity.

What they found: The researchers took a global snapshot of fires based on satellite surveillance data collected between 1998 and 2015. The largest decrease in fires was found in savannas that have been converted to agricultural uses. "(The) long-term declines were more associated with transitions from natural to managed landscapes," the researchers wrote in Science. In these areas where humans had moved in, fire management techniques were "employed to protect high value crops, livestock, homes, infrastructure, and air quality."

Go deeper

Restaurant software meets the pandemic moment

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Food delivery companies have predictably done well during the pandemic. But restaurant software providers are also having a moment as eateries race to handle the avalanche of online orders resulting from severe in-person dining restrictions.

Driving the news: Olo filed last week for an IPO and Toast is rumored to be preparing to do the same very soon.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

How the automation economy can turn human workers into robots

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

More than outright destroying jobs, automation is changing employment in ways that will weigh on workers.

The big picture: Right now, we should be less worried about robots taking human jobs than people in low-skilled positions being forced to work like robots.

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.