• Nihira Prakash

Fire Ecology

Ever wondered about the causes and consequences of wildfires? Or how humans could live in harmony with fire? Or how these fires are burning, used to burn like, and how they might burn in the future? Fire ecology is a subject that deals with the origin of wildfires and their association with the surrounding living and non-living environment. The ecologists in this field also study how the domain or the environment adapts to fire since they believe it is a raw process that usually operates as a critical part of an ecosystem in which it ensues.

Fire is favorable for the Chaparrals

Chaparral is a myriad, shrub-dominated plant community cast by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters, which can be called an intricate mixture of fairly fresh soils, and massive, infrequent, high-intensity blazes.

Fire is very fundamental to these shrublands. They are fire-resistant species that are adapted to survive burning and cover large parts of California, central and southeastern Arizona, and northern Mexico.

Pulling off "being fire-prone"

This shrub-monopolized community of plants responds to fire using 3 techniques: ● Obligate resprouts - They rely on resprouting to regenerate after fire. ● Obligate seeders - They can only regenerate after fire from seeds. If wildfires are too

continual, plants become unable to reach maturity to set seeds and their species' continuance may be jeopardized.

● Facultative seeders - These species regenerate through both seeds and resprouting after the fire.

Fire plays a major role in maintaining biodiversity in places where natural blazes are imminent.

However, Chaparral is NOT “adapted to fire” but it is adapted to a particular fire regime. What are Fire regimes?

The general pattern in which fires naturally occur in a specific ecosystem over some time is called a fire regime. They have been classified keeping in mind a plethora of factors including regularity, intensity, extent, structure, season, and severity.

What if more fires start burning or the intervals between fires start reducing?

More fires can significantly cause serious changes in climate by creating warmer and arider conditions. A spike in droughts and long fire seasons are stimulating these increases in wildfire risks. An average annual 1 degree Celcius increase in the temperature would intensify the median burned area per year by as much as 60 % in forests situated in areas that are prone to wildfires.

Usage of land by man and management of forests can also affect risks related to wildfires. Climate change also adds to these facets and is expected to persist to broaden the amount of area affected by blazes.

The more the agencies struggle and make attempts to suppress fires, the more they create forests vulnerable to fires. They also end up investing more resources – human and monetary – trying to fight them. This strategy to control what is a force of nature makes as much sense as trying to go head-to-head with an earthquake or to try and stop a hurricane. We fail to comprehend that when it comes to natural phenomena like wildfires, coexistence is the key!

Building fire-resilience is more sensible and thus things like the removal of dead trees and other fuels from fire-prone areas become a vital factor in curbing wildfires, reducing the environmental impact, devastation to property and infrastructure, and economic losses caused by them.

No time to grieve for roses when the forests are burning.