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 Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

nachricht Joint research project on wastewater for reuse examines pond system in Namibia
19.12.2016 | Technische Universität Darmstadt

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: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

Im Focus: How to inflate a hardened concrete shell with a weight of 80 t

At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).

Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

Nothing will happen without batteries making it happen!

05.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A big nano boost for solar cells

18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Glass's off-kilter harmonies

18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed

18.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>