By Ashlyn Rhodes
Living in California means dealing with wild fires– it’s just a fact of life here. But with the drought and forests that haven’t burned in decades, the danger of large, intense fires is very real. These types of fires aren’t all bad, according to Dr. Chad Hanson, who is the director and staff ecologist for the John Muir Project at the Earth Island Institute in Berkley. He says that areas burned by intense fires becom thriving ecosystems, despite how they look after the fire.
Hanson says that, as the area grows back, its biodiversity changes wildly. As larger plants return, so do different mammals and birds, until the once-burned area becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the forest. He says the change happens very quickly.
Ecosystems like this are becoming increasingly rare. Hanson says this is for two main reasons. First, he says California’s fire fighting plan has always been to stop any fire at any cost, a move he says does more harm than good. While he agrees with protecting houses and other structures, he says creating a defensible space around your home by clearing out brush and cutting low limbs off larger trees is a very effective way of protecting a structure.
He says another reason why post-fire ecosystems are in danger of disappearing is because fire-killed trees, called “snags,” are cut down and harvested for lumber instead of being allowed to stand. These trees provide homes and protection for future forest residents.
Dr. Hanson will be speaking at Sierra College’s Science Presentation night tonight at the Grass Valley campus on Sierra College Drive. The hour-long talk starts at 6:30 and take place in the Multipurpose Center in building N-12. The event is free to the public and refreshments will be served at 6, before the presentation. There is a $3 parking fee on campus.