Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Without fire, red pines could disappear, model shows

05.08.2002


In the northeastern corner of Minnesota stand towering groves of red pine trees stretching some 80 feet into the sky.



But these red pine groves could eventually vanish from Minnesota’s Boundary Water Canoe Area if what we usually view as a foe to forests -- fire -- fails to sweep the terrain occasionally, says a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"The big, natural groves of red pine are one of the most unique features of the BWCA. But, because of fire suppression, we’re starting to lose them forever," says Robert Scheller, a UW-Madison forest ecologist working with professor David Mladenoff.


Before people settled the area in the early 1900s, fires -- started primarily by lightning bolts -- swept through the area every 50 to 100 years. While the blazes reduced most vegetation to ashes, they enabled the surviving trees, such as the red pine, to reproduce more easily.

"The fires cleared dense brush so the red pines could drop their seeds on the forest floor and also triggered the release of seeds from pine cones belonging to other fire-adaptive trees," Scheller says.

However, when settlers started taking active measures to suppress natural fires, red pines experienced more difficulty regenerating: other trees and shrubs filled the forest understory. This growth inhibited the red pine from seeding and remaining a key part of this northern ecosystem.

"Red pines have a life span of about 300 years," says Scheller, "and many of the ones in BWCA are already old." Without fire to help them successfully reproduce, he adds, it’s unlikely that the older trees will be replaced once they die.

Nearly a century after fire suppression was first introduced, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service is now considering the use of fire in the boundary waters area. To explore the long-term effects continued fire suppression and regular burnings, Scheller has developed a model that shows the outcomes of both scenarios. The findings were presented today, Aug. 5, at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

"We wanted to know the consequences of different kinds of future forest management over the BWCA," he says. "Would reintroducing fire bring back the red pines?"

Taking into account the species’ ages and life histories, as well as forest composition, climate and soil, Scheller used the landscape simulation model LANDIS, which was developed at UW-Madison, to predict what might happen across the entire area if fire was reintroduced. Specifically, Scheller studied four scenarios over a 300-year time period: continued fire suppression and fires about every 50, 100 or 300 years.

The model shows that continued fire suppression would lead to the disappearance of not just red pines but also jack pine, aspen and birch trees within 300 years. "If full fire suppression continues," Scheller explains, "the forest may never recover and red pine may be lost as a locally dominant species."

The model suggests that while a fire every 300 years would preserve red pines, it would not save the jack pine, another tree species dependent on fire for reproduction. Fires every 50 to 100 years, as they once occurred naturally, would maintain tree diversity; and, a fire every 50 years would increase the number of red pines.

Fire suppression policies implemented in this century and advocated by icons like Smokey Bear, are meant to preserve the natural beauty of forests, says Scheller. But as he points out, "the model shows that fire is a necessary process for maintaining the natural community. Without it, the characteristics that define the wilderness of the BWCA will completely change."


###
Scheller’s work is funded by the USDA Forest Service, which plans to use the model to develop a long-term perspective on fire and forest management.

-- Emily Carlson (608) 262-9772, emilycarlson@facstaff.wisc.edu

Robert Scheller | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.wisc.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dispersal of Fish Eggs by Water Birds – Just a Myth?
19.02.2018 | Universität Basel

nachricht Removing fossil fuel subsidies will not reduce CO2 emissions as much as hoped
08.02.2018 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>