When a prescribed fire is introduced to an ecosystem before excessive fuel has built up, a low-intensity burn results, removing litter and exposing the soil just enough for native species to germinate and flourish. After a prescribed fire, fire-dependent vegetation thrives, competition among species is reduced, destructive insect populations and diseases are controlled, and excessive fuel build-up is eliminated.
Fire-Dependent Ecosystem with Periodic Fire
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Search Search text Search Close. Conifer forests did not show this reduction in soil carbon and nitrogen after fires. After the team found that repeated fire causes the continued loss of carbon and nitrogen in savannas and broadleaf forests, they wanted to see how it might affect plant recovery.
They used a vegetation model to predict global plant growth in frequently burned areas and found the loss of nitrogen in soils suppressed the regrowth of plants. Instead, the conifer-dominated forest soils actually had more carbon and nitrogen present with frequent burning. Pellegrini explains that burning of the dense layer of partially decomposed pine needles on the forest floor might provide ash to the soils, and adds that future work will further examine the effects of fire in this type of forest. The researchers stress that they are not advocating fire suppression.
Instead, in a time where climate change creates drier and warmer conditions that favor fire, fire managers and conservationists may have to shift their management strategies.
Fire in Ecosystems of Boreal Eurasia
The researchers report their findings in Nature. Rob Jackson is also a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy.
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