Can wildfires benefit the environment?

I’m going to start this post off by saying that I, too, was entirely unaware that wildfires can be an advantageous thing for the environment. In fact, I thought they would be the exact opposite, but an article from The Good News Network has allowed me to think otherwise, and I wanted to share the information from this article with all of you.

I think it’s fair to say that it the environmental destruction caused by wildfires is obvious. Thousands upon thousands of hectares end up being scorched before a wildfire is extinguished, and any wildlife living in the region where the blaze is burning is often affected. But, “National Geographic reports that, surprisingly, wildlife casualties tend to be low during wildfire events, as animals—especially those native to the areas on-fire and evolved to respond to the threat—either burrow in the ground or flee to safer areas instinctively,” the article states.

Further, “… forest fire does clear away the tinder-like overgrown understory that has resulted from years of forest management that avoided fire at all cost. Hundreds of years ago, many of the forests now on fire in California, Oregon and Washington had fewer yet larger and healthier trees. But these days, partly thanks to fire suppression regimes as well as other factors, forests are more crowded today with smaller, less healthy trees.

“It’s also harder for those remaining mature, established trees to compete for nutrients and space with all the undergrowth that’s built up in recent decades. In these situations, small manageable fires (or even better, prescribed burns) cannot only be beneficial, but can help prevent larger fires down the road by clearing the weaker, smaller trees.

“Another benefit of wildfire is the clearing of overgrown underbrush to make room for new grasses, herbs and regenerated shrubs that provide food and habitat for many wildlife species. Also, the removal of thick stands of shrubs increases the water supply for the remaining larger plants and trees—and also allows streams and rivers to swell, further benefiting ever-thirsty native flora and fauna.

“Yet another benefit of fire is that it kills off fungi, bacteria, viruses and insects that can decimate tree and plant communities and entire forest ecosystems. According to CalFire, California’s statewide wildfire management agency, more trees die from insect infestation and disease than from wildfire; some fire actually helps keep forests devoid of such pests and healthier overall than without fire. CalFire points out that vegetation burned by wildfire provides a rich source of nutrients that nourish surviving trees and soil,” says the article.

I was personally entirely unaware of any sort of positives that could come from a wildfire, but this information has proved otherwise. I suppose there really can be silver linings present in just about anything.

Image from https://images.unsplash.com/photo-1507680465142-ef2223e23308?ixlib=rb-1.2.1&ixid=eyJhcHBfaWQiOjEyMDd9&auto=format&fit=crop&w=648&q=80


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