Friday, March 5, 2010

In Defense of Prescribed Cool Burning

Prescribed burning has always been a controversial subject. The subject is going to be the epicenter of heated discussions in the days to come as the revision of management plan of Eravikulam National Park is on its way. I have always been an unabashed votary of prescribed cool burning.  The latest research buttresses my arguments.  As scientists gather more and more information on the effects of fire on forest ecosystems, they have learned that fire exclusion may not be the best practice for land management.  There is increased awareness that a forest fire is part of the overall ecology and is part of the overall balance despite earlier fears that forest fires were only deleterious. Not only does fire exclusion cause an accumulation of thick vegetation on the forest floor, but also causes and increased density of smaller trees. A fire in a forest that has been excluded from fires for many years is disastrous and pushes back all the good work by many years. The fire becomes a holocaust.  The blaze burns at a much higher intensity causing more damage to the forest ecosystem. On a long-term basis particularly in a thickly populated state like Kerala fire will be an inevitable part of forest ecosystems. So why not manage and mitigate the effects instead of living in a fool’s paradise.
Many people have concerns that prescribed fires affect animals in a negative way.  The fire itself does not harm the animals for several reasons. The prescribed burns are done in pre-designated patches. Most prescribed burns travel at a slow rate of less than 2 Km per hour giving most insects and animals time to leave the area or burrow deep into the ground.  Only 290 animals were found dead as a result of the Yellowstone fires in 1988, and this fire was uncontrollable and burned at very high intensities. Most prescribed fires occur when animals are not nesting or caring for their young. 
Forests that have not had a fire in decades may become the home to a plant species that is not adapted or dependent on fire.  Plants that are adapted for wildfire usually have a thick layer of bark to protect its living tissue from the heat.  Also, many trees are dependent on the heat of fire in order to open up their seed cones for regeneration.  Vegetation modification also affects the ecosystem’s insects and diseases, wildlife populations, soil structure, and nutrient recycling.
Recent ecological research has shown that forest fire is an integral component to the function and biodiversity of many ecological communities, and that the organisms within those communities have adapted to withstand and even exploit it. A fire may destroy one ecological community but allow greater long term diversity. It is not just the fire but the smoke also plays a very important role in the ecological processes. Smoke plays a prominent role in promoting the germination of seeds of many species following a fire. Even the carbon dioxide from a fire has an impact on the overall ecosystem.
Fire create a mosaic of different habitat patches, with sites ranging from just burned to untouched by fire for years, through a process known as succession. Succession is the progress of a site through continuous and directional phases of colonization by and extinction of species populations after a disturbance, such as fire.
In a recent study published in the Journal of Natural Products it was reported that a chemical compound in smoke from burning plants promotes seed germination. Such seeds, which remain in the undercover on forest and meadow floors after fires have been extinguished, are responsible for the surprisingly rapid regrowth of fire devastated landscapes.
In their research, the scientists report discovery of an inhibitor compound that may block the action of the stimulator, preventing germination of seeds. They suspect that the compounds may be part of a carefully crafted natural regulatory system for repopulating fire ravaged landscapes. Interaction of these and other compounds may ensure that seeds remain dormant until environmental conditions are best for germination. The inhibitor thus may delay germination of seeds until moisture and temperature are right, and then take a back seat to the germination promoter in smoke.
A recent study at Oregon State University indicates that some past approaches to calculating the impacts of forest fires have grossly overestimated the number of live trees that burn up and the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result. A forest fire does not cause a complete destruction or release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere as compared to the deliberate combustion of fossil fuels.
The past estimates of fire severity and the amounts of carbon release have often been high and probably overestimated in many cases, said Beverly Law, a professor of forest ecosystems and society at OSU. Even when a very severe fire kills almost all of the trees in a patch, the scientists said, the trees are still standing and only drop to the forest floor, decay, and release their carbon content very slowly over several decades. Grasses and shrubs quickly grow back after high-severity fires, offsetting some of the carbon release from the dead and decaying trees. Abundant tree regeneration will result in a relatively fast recovery of carbon uptake and storage.
More and more government agencies such as the National Parks Service and the USDA Forest Service are adopting prescribed fire plans. Although not all of the long term effects of prescribed fires are known, most evidence shows that a prescribed fire plan’s benefits outweigh a fire exclusion plan’s benefits.
In Eravikulam National Park prescribed cool burning has been practiced right from the British days. The ecosystem has stabilized around this practice. Tinkering with the practice is fraught with unseen dangers. In Eravikualm the recruitment of Nilgiri tahr has come down to about 5 % from the 10 to 20% that was there 30 years back. I have a sneaking doubt that tinkering with the burning regime has a role in it. Only detailed research can prove it. Other possibility is disturbance. Caughly has conclusively proved that disturbances even in the absence of  poaching bring about energetic demands on the animals affecting parturition.
Opponents of prescribed burning should read the book "Yellowstone in the Afterglow: Lessons from the Fire." Yellowstone has played a critical role in demonstrating the changes brought by fires. "The lessons of '88 in the park are like classic Led Zeppelin," says Mr. Renkin, a park ecologist. "They'll be around forever."
Have a look at the other recent papers on forest fires that are available on the net.


Rajiv K Menon said...

Very interesting

james zacharias said...

If one cares to look at colonial forest administartion reports, it becomes quite evident that prescribed burning was widely practised due to its accepatability among forest dependents and also, due to its managerial effectiveness. Now, with the Forest Rights Act and new studies in fire ecology, prsecibed burning has become not just an option but a necessity.'No fire' is just romantic ignorance.

K.P Vipinchandran said...

Nice comment by James Zacharias

Anonymous said...

上班很累,摸個魚輕輕鬆鬆的逛部落 ........................................

Sita Raghavan said...

Thank you for giving new insights in to fire ecology. I was under the impression that fire was only destructive

Mohan Alembath said...

Here is something new from ABC news.
A panel of bushfire ecologists has told the Royal Commission that prescribed burning can help reduce the severity of bushfires for as long as two decades. a good prescribed burn will stop a bushfire for one to two years afterwards. After three years the burn will still have a "profound effect" in reducing the rate of spread.A planned burn could reduce embers and flame height for much longer, possibly as long as 20 years.T he panel told the commission there is no reason to wait, and between 5 and 10 per cent of Victoria's forests should be burnt annually to drive down the risk of bushfire.
Forest ecologist Mark Adams said there was enough evidence to proceed with confidence that prescribed burning in Victoria's foothill forests would cause little damage.

Chandran Cannaore said...

Good to see an active discussion about pros and cons of forest fires

Ravi Krishnan said...

So much money is spent on fire protection every year. The ideal should be prescribed burning combined with preventive measures. Let us get maximum benefit for the tax payers money

Sreedhar A.K said...

Good. Spread the word around. Let us get rid of all the hyperbole about no fire. The practical solution gets the thumps up from me

james said...

"Tyger,Tyger burning bright
in the forests of the night"
I wonder whether forest fire had lit up Blake's imagination!

Mohan Alembath said...

For more articles please log on to my other blog

Anonymous said...

[b][url=]ugg boots sale uk[/url][/b] Nobody acknowledges the need to become seen in place for just a soccer exercise, but in addition in a Southerly, it has the your life-style ( room ) this mother and father accomplished it generations prior to myself (from Auburn as well as UGA, correspondingly), and its particular some type of tailored wherein I am pleased to continue. The idea harkens time for a time if cultural gatherings, which incorporates basketball on the web online games, ended up should to own accurate outfitting, as well as a period of time through which girls of all ages just failed to head outside within sweatpants getting ideas on their toes. In a natural way, the next traditions was produced to me..

[b][url=][/url][/b] Each and every year we get many hundreds of email messages from silver jewelry lovers. They see that their attractive silver jewelry has tarnished. Quite a few sellers don't clearly demonstrate the procedure of silver tarnishing to customers and potential buyers are shocked to see their lovely silver jewelry little by little improve shade to your darkish uninteresting shade of yellow, brown and even black..
Just what would be the most significant aspects which you should know so that you can place a faux? First of all you ought to pay a visit to the web site on the designer handbag that you are interested in buying. Look throughout the webpage and thoroughly examine the attributes of each and every purse. Make sure to just take be aware of your hues, threads, lines, and emblem that seems on the authentic edition.

[b][url=]ugg boots outlet[/url][/b] Some dumpster rental businesses offer opportunity into the shopper to mail their very own selling price quote and customise their solutions appropriately. The purpose of such varieties of dumpster rental corporations will be to seize the client loyalty than generating an additional buck. Let me reveal how the procedure runs.
For guys, your Trinidad belt band within just Damier imprinted buckskin could be the leading vendor. The spectacular printed design and type and its unique Velcro fencing will help it become a favorite on the list of fashion conscious. They may have 2 crisscrossing shoulder straps alongside with all the replica artist LV brand name.

[b][url=][/url][/b] The foremost acknowledged designer brand purses are often any superb a great quantity extravagant wholesale handbags, in addition they are generally almost regularly outrageous good quality procuring bags also. You are able to start out practising a specialist designer purse, and also usually the suggests, sorts economical handbags are well developed, top-quality high-quality thus extra durable. Even so, furthermore a lot of duplicate developer wholesale handbags, these totes appear impeccable and that could be as resilient due to the fact customized handbags of which they could be imitations.

Anonymous said...

louis vuitton purses There exists a little something sweet a couple of cute and feminine headband. I normally throw a headband within my hair after i am in need of chic style out and about. There is certainly practically nothing sweet in regards to headband that expenditures $300, constructed from brass. What's extra, you don't have to invest countless numbers on your own Gucci, although you may. The price of Gucci handbags may differ largely, from a couple of hundred dollars to fifty thousand pounds. Thus, you'll be able to invest in one whether or not you're a millionaire or possibly a white-collar. His operate of excellent fortune persisted with Everywhere you go attaining amount two in the Billboard two hundred album chart in 1997, along with a CMA Award for Vocal Function In the 12 months on "It's Your Love" (along with his husband or wife Religion Hill). McGraw broke into your US pop Major 10 in Might 1999 with "Please Keep in mind Me", and crowned the album charts using a Put Within the Solar. McGraw and his band, the Dance Hall Physicians, were named the No.

louis vuitton handbags In addition they can come with pricy paying proposals which are cloaked as no-risk chances to gain even larger amounts of profits. They will try out to encourage you these are below to help. The things they really need is their own personal personal piece of your achievements in the sort of the promotion retainer or possibly a long-term copier lease.

louis vuitton purses one. Common "Date Night": The simplest solution to hold romance alive is by heading out on dates. No matter whether that you are young and wish to occasion, or settled down with a number of children, a pair wants a "Date Night" to keep the spark likely during the romance section.

Anonymous said...