The future of fire in this region is difficult to predict, will always be variable, and undoubtedly a part of the future landscape. People should understand, however, that fire is not only inevitable but also a valuable part of forest ecosystems and their management, says John Bailey, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at Oregon State University.
Bailey will speak as one of many invited experts at “Forest Health in Oregon: State of the State,” a conference being held at Oregon State University. He describes fire as a force that should be understood, often welcomed, used as appropriate and more frequently incorporated into long-term ecosystem management.
“Forests historically had more fire across much of Oregon, and they would love to have more today,” Bailey said. “Burning is a natural ecosystem process and generally helps restore forest ecosystems. It’s ironic that we spend so much money to stop fire, because we should learn to see fire as more of a partner and not always an enemy.”
Many experts are warning that global warming and drought stress in forests may make them more vulnerable to frequent, larger and hotter fires, Bailey said. That may be true, he added, although future predictions can’t be made with a high degree of certainty, and there will still be a wide amount of variation in the types of fires and acreages burned in various years.
But the more important point, he emphasized, is that even if some of the more dire scenarios are true, they shouldn’t necessarily be seen as a crisis. Frequent fire in Pacific Northwest forests will promote forest composition, structure and function that’s more consistent with how these forests grew historically. Prior to European settlement, fires were significantly more frequent, sometimes were started on purpose and rarely suppressed.
“Right now we’re spending billions of dollars to prevent something that is going to happen sooner or later, whether we try to stop it or not, and something that can assist us in sound land management,” Bailey said. “It may always make sense to put out some fires when they threaten communities, or in other select circumstances.
“But periodic fire has always been a part of our forests, and we need to accept it as such, sort of like how we plan for and accept a very wet winter that comes along now and then,” he said.
Fire regimes vary widely based on fuel loads, topography and weather in the short term, and forces such as fire suppression, forest management and climate changes in the long term, Bailey said. They can be linked to droughts, insect attack and other factors that are all a natural part of the forest. But the key to the future, he said, is accepting the inevitability of fire and learning to manage it as a natural part of the ecosystem.
That may take a substantial culture shift, he conceded, when much of the public and even government agencies have traditional ways of looking at fire and resource loss, consider all forest fire as bad, and even organize large, commercially important systems based around fire suppression.
Much recent research, however, has explored the ways in which fire helps treat fuel loading issues within stands and across landscapes; reduces competition for moisture and nutrients; develops complex forest structure; helps maintain the health of surviving trees and leaves them better able to resist disease and insect attack; and sometimes sets the stage for forest renewal.
Most burned area within the majority of Oregon fires are not stand-replacement situations, researchers have found. Their structure varies after a fire, usually as a result of pre-fire variability in the fuels, weather fluctuations and sometimes suppression activities. But proactive fuel management can lower the importance of suppression efforts.
“The move to new viewpoints could not only help benefit our forests, but save a lot of money and be quite exciting for exploring the natural role of fire in our state,” Bailey says. “We’ve had a wide range of forest conditions in the past and, despite whatever climate change may bring, we’ll have a wide range in the future. And fire will be a part of it.”
The professional conference is exploring issues in Oregon forest health, current forest conditions, recent research, and management approaches for the future. It’s being held Feb. 24-25 at the LaSells Stewart Center on the OSU campus, hosted by the OSU College of Forestry and Forestry Extension.
About the OSU College of Forestry: For a century, the College of Forestry has been a world class center of teaching, learning and research. It offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in sustaining ecosystems, managing forests and manufacturing wood products; conducts basic and applied research on the nature and use of forests; and operates 14,000 acres of college forests.
John Bailey | EurekAlert!
Waste in the water – New purification techniques for healthier aquatic ecosystems
24.07.2018 | Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Plenty of habitat for bears in Europe
24.07.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...
Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.
When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...
Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.
Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....
Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.
Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...
Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur
What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...
08.08.2018 | Event News
27.07.2018 | Event News
25.07.2018 | Event News
15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
15.08.2018 | Earth Sciences
15.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy