Embers & Ecology Hessburg #3

“…different forest types, the environment they grew in, and fire severity, they all worked together to shape this historical patchwork, and there was so much power in the patchwork.”

We continue our highlight of Dr. Paul Hessburg’s TED talk ““Why wildfires have gotten worse-and what we can do about it” to emphasize that historically western forests were a patchwork of open and closed forest canopies created by different forest types, the particular environments they grew in, and areas burned at various times and intensities.  Dry forests burned frequently and at a lower intensity, thinning out the understory and leaving large, fire-resistant trees unharmed.  At higher elevations, cooler and wetter forests types grew more densely than dry forests, and fires were less frequent.  When fires did burn in these forests, they tended to be larger and more severe, leaving large forest openings in their wake.   This patchwork across the landscape provided a powerful feedback loop in shaping the way wildfires burned.  The variability of the patchwork created natural fire breaks in the forest to help resist the spread of wildfires.  If you haven’t already watched Dr. Hessburg’s talk, follow this link to find out more about the “power of the patchwork”.

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