The burning question: How do wildfires impact watersheds?

Wildfires can be devastating events, but the impacts can last long after the flames are gone. The major changes to the landscape can have serious implications for how water moves and, as a result, how much of that water we can use. In this study, scientists investigate what a fiery future under climate change could mean for watersheds.

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A Matter of Mulch: Restoring Post-Fire Pine Forests in the Western United States

Following severe fires, forest soils can erode, depositing sediment into nearby waterways after it rains and threatening local water quality as a result. Mulch is often used to reduce soil erosion in forests following wildfire. Following the High Park Fire in Colorado, scientists tested several types of mulch to determine which was most effective. Thanks to this study, we now know that wood mulch is better than wheat-straw mulch at promoting the return of pine trees and excluding non-native species from taking over, while also stabilizing the soil, probably because wood mulch persists longer and holds more moisture.

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Double trouble: how floods after bushfire affect the health of our rivers

Between Christmas 2019 and the  2020 New Year, forested mountain ranges across drought-stricken areas in Eastern Australia came alight, with fires ravaging 11 million hectares of bush (Eucalyptus woodlands and rainforests) – a size comparable to England’s land area. These megafires threw the states of New South Wales and Victoria into a state of emergency. The bushfire crisis took a sudden turn when heavy rainfall flooded the scorched land in the span of just two weeks. Unfortunately, while rainfall might appear to be a blessing in light of the megafires, the resulting floods were ultimately not sweet relief for rivers. 

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What Smokey the Bear didn’t know about invasive species

Fires are increasing across the United States and researchers are looking to weed out the one of the culprits — invasive grasses. Using information from fires and non-native grass invasion across the country, researchers from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst set out to determine if invasive grasses increase the number of fires across the United States. Of the twelve grass species analyzed, 66% increased fire frequency, adding another layer to the complexity of managing wildfires. As individuals we can help halt this “grass-fire cycle” by reducing the spread of invasive grasses and human-caused sparks.

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Coming out of a fire, are our forests doing just fine?: Impacts of climate change on forest recovery after wildfires

Climate change is predicted to change the frequency and severity of forest fires, but can it also impact what happens to forests after the fire? This study tries to answer that question by studying how recovery of forests after fires across the Rocky Mountains has changed with our changing climate.

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Wildfires Are Shaping Our Ecosystems: One Species They Affect and How

Disturbances that occur around us help shape our world; from spilling a cup of coffee, to a natural disaster. During the past few decades we’ve experienced a lot more of the latter: from Katrina to tornados in the eastern US, severe natural disturbances are on the rise. One of those disturbances is wildfire. Over the last couple of decades wildfires have increased in intensity and scale. While this is alarming to our safety and infrastructure, wildfires play an important role and are necessary for various organisms. Of the many organisms that live in and rely on forest communities that are susceptible to wildfire disturbances, one of major interest is the northern spotted owl.

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