Fighting Fire with Fire

Photo of wildfires.

Does like cure like when it comes to… WILDFIRES? 

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Fire season is coming! One way to help avoid the destruction? Prescribed burns! This technique has been used to control wildfires for years. But it can cause the soil to dry out – isn’t that bad for plants? 

Jens Stevens from the US Geological Survey and team explored that question at Sugarloaf Creek Basin in Sequoia National Park. Rangers had controlled burns for almost FIFTY years at this “sweet” spot. 

The team measured Sugarloaf’s soil moisture and catalogued its plants. They then compared their data to previous measurements and satellite images of the area.

AND?! Compared to almost fifty years ago, Sugarloaf’s plants were JUST AS well-distributed and diverse. Controlled fires basically had NO effect on flora! Pretty sweet, huh?

Findings like this can help point toward the best fire management strategy for a healthy ecosystem!

As for your kitchen, though – next time the roast catches fire? Fight it with FI—Or even better — baking soda! Or just order in.

Reference: Stevens, J.T., Boisramé, G.F.S., Rakhmatulina, E. et al. Forest Vegetation Change and Its Impacts on Soil Water Following 47 Years of Managed Wildfire. Ecosystems 23, 1547–1565 (2020).