Despite responses to wildfires as being disasters that require human care, these natural disturbances are important ecosystem processes that should be left alone-a move that will increase the areas recovery chances, says a University of Alberta researcher.
Following a forest fire, there is typically an attempt to recoup economic losses by salvage harvesting large volumes of timber in the affected area, but this philosophy needs to be reexamined, said Dr. Fiona Schmiegelow, who co-authored a paper just published in the prestigious journal Science.
Schmiegelow and Dr. David Lindenmayer from the Australian National University, found that salvage harvest operations after natural disturbances can threaten some organisms when large quantities of biological legacies are removed. "This may result in compounding, cumulative or magnified effects on ecosystem processes and elements of the biota if an intense natural disturbance event is soon followed by an intensive human disturbance," said Schmiegelow, a professor in the Department of Renewable Resources.
The research team argues that large areas need to be exempt from salvage practices to maintain key ecological processes and facilitate recovery following the disturbance, but where these practices are done, strict policies need to be in place.
Phoebe Dey | EurekAlert!
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