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Here’s What Goes on Inside a Forest When a Massive Wildfire Hits

Here s What Goes on Inside a Forest When a Massive Wildfire Hits Atlas Obscura


Understanding how these fire cycles work has had important ramifications for species populations, as well as public policy. For instance, the major fire of 1910, which burned 3 million acres in Montana, Idaho, and Washington in only two days, and killed 87 people, was a defining moment in modern forest fire policy. For the next hundred years, that policy was total fire suppression.

And yet, according to Neddo, that particular fire, as well as other big fires in the 1920s and ‘60s, were actually beneficial to deer and elk populations, because by “moving millions of acres of forest,” the burns made more brush and grass available for them to eat.

Now, nearly half a century later, as the elk population in north central Idaho continues to decline, Neddo thinks they could use a little fire.

“Those forests are now old and need to be burned again in order for those populations to rebound,” Neddo says. “During drought cycles the fires burned, during the wet cycle forests grew. Those are things that wildlife are fairly used to, but we’ve been putting our values and needs on top of that and changing the system.”

Stashed in: Science!, Fire!, Out of Doors, Physics, Ecology

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Today I learned that some forest fires are necessary "for populations to rebound". Wow. 

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