To frame in a positive light, wildfires are a natural mechanism that is essential to forest ecosystems. Fire can be a great tool for clearing excess vegetation, which consequently opens forest floors to sunlight, nourishes soil, revitalizes water sources, encourages new plant growth, and creates more space for forest inhabitants. For some plant species, fire is even essential for species survival where the intense heat is necessary for breaking down fire resistant bark/cones that consequently releases seeds.
It’s when fires advance from low intensity to high intensity that these positive benefits are outweighed by negative environmental destruction. Plus with climate change warm, dry areas are expected to get warmer and drier ergo more frequent and more intense fires may become the new normal. From an environmental standpoint, high intensity fires pose serious threats to soil, water, and air quality.
Threats to soil include higher erosion rates, nutrient depletion, changes in soil composition and chemistry, and loss of soil microbiota. Threats to water include increased flooding, increased sediment loading, and changes in water chemistry (usually increases in nutrients, dissolved oxygen, dissolved organic carbon, metals, etc.). Lastly, high intensity wildfires release large amounts of carbon dioxide, black carbon, brown carbon, ozone precursors, VOCs, and semi-VOCs which threaten air quality on regional and even global scales.
As we have entered the rainy season, it’s important to protect against erosion and post-fire pollutants and sedimentation in creeks and rivers. If you have questions about post-fire protection or assessment, please give the experts at Alta a call toll free: (800) 777-0605 or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blog by Natalie Kvochak