Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fire's Ecological Role

Fire is an important and beneficial ecological force. Writers like Stephen Pyne have documented how it was in past centuries an important tool for maintaining meadows and open woodlands even along the east coast. Many native plant species have evolved adaptations to and even dependency on periodic fire. In  past years, living in the midwest and later the piedmont of North Carolina, I was fortunate to participate in controlled burns of some small prairies. One prairie was right in the city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they regularly burn native prairie grasses and woodlands in their parks, in a very controlled way, of course. Controlled burns are being done at a few preserves in New Jersey, as described in a previous post about Schiff Nature Preserve 30 miles north of Princeton, and more widespread use would undoubtedly benefit habitat and ecological health.

This storyline is seldom encountered in news reports, which focus on war-like responses to wildfires out west.   A post at another website of mine speaks to the gap in people's knowledge perpetuated by this unbalanced reporting: Rethinking News Coverage of Wildfires.

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