Wildfire management vs. fire suppression benefits forest and watershed


Long-term experiment in Yosemite shows managing fires can help make forest more resilient to fire

October 24, 2016  UC Berkeley ScienceDaily

An unprecedented 40-year experiment in a 40,000-acre valley of Yosemite National Park strongly supports the idea that managing fire, rather than suppressing it, makes wilderness areas more resilient to fire, with the added benefit of increased water availability and resistance to drought….

…”When fire is not suppressed, you get all these benefits: increased stream flow, increased downstream water availability, increased soil moisture, which improves habitat for the plants within the watershed. And it increases the drought resistance of the remaining trees and also increases the fire resilience because you have created these natural firebreaks,” said Gabrielle Boisramé, a graduate student in UC Berkeley’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and first author of the study….

…”We know that forests are deep-rooted and that they have a large leaf area, which means they are both thirsty and able to get to water resources,” Thompson said. “So if fire removes 20 percent of that demand from the landscape, that frees up some of the water to do different things, from recharging groundwater resources to supporting different kinds of vegetation, and it could start to move into the surface water supplies as stream flow.”…

Gabrielle Boisramé, Sally Thompson, Brandon Collins, Scott Stephens. Managed Wildfire Effects on Forest Resilience and Water in the Sierra Nevada. Ecosystems, 2016; DOI: 10.1007/s10021-016-0048-1

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