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You also agree to our Terms of Service. Professor Monica Turner Department of Zoology “Burning Questions About Forest Fires in the West” The Conversations in Science series brings together UW-Madison science researchers and Dane County science teachers. She got her first glimpse of the Park since it had been ravaged by huge fires, the likes of which no one had ever seen. Dense, young forests were converted into much sparser ones. Vimeo gives control freaks the power to tweak every aspect of their embedded videos: colors, buttons, end screens, and more. — Make social videos in an instant: use custom templates to tell the right story for your business. “Science knows very well what is going on here,” said Monica Turner, fire ecologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I was there during the fires and returned that fall to view the aftermath. “Many of the old-growth forests we know and love in the Pacific Northwest were born of large and severe fires centuries ago,” says Brian Harvey, a wildfire ecologist at the University of Washington, Seattle. Their size and severity surprised scientists, managers and the public and received heavy media coverage. Extreme climate change has arrived in America, and it burns.

When heated, the cones release vast quantities of seeds that produce a new generation of trees. See our, Read a limited number of articles each month, You consent to the use of cookies and tracking by us and third parties to provide you with personalized ads, Unlimited access to on any device, Unlimited access to all Washington Post apps, No on-site advertising or third-party ad tracking. “California especially has a lot of endemic plant species that could be very much impacted,” she says. Amounts of fuel (dead logs and pine needles on the ground and live trees) were not unusual, and there is no evidence that suppression of prior fires had much, if any, influence on the 1988 fires. “We care about carbon storage and recovery because forests play a very important role in the global carbon cycle,” says Braziunas, who before joining Turner’s research group spent more than seven years working as a municipal firefighter in Oberlin, Ohio.

Liz is a senior correspondent covering many aspects of biology for Science. Fires play an important ecological role in many ecosystems, and Yellowstone’s native plants and animals are well-adapted to historical cycles of disturbance and recovery. By the late 21st century, hot, dry weather like the summer of 1988 could be the rule rather than the exception in Yellowstone. In New Mexico, researchers are examining whether smoke from the fires might have played a role in the unusual deaths of thousands of birds found scattered on the ground. This summer marks the 30th anniversary of the 1988 Yellowstone fires – massive blazes that affected about 1.2 million acres in and around Yellowstone National Park. Even forests that are well-adapted to large, severe fires are at risk in a warming world. By clicking “I agree” below, you consent to the use by us and our third-party partners of cookies and data gathered from your use of our platforms. In August 2016, areas of Yellowstone National Park that burned in 1988 burned again.

In some places, such as the sagebrush ecosystem of the Great Basin west of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and forests in the Klamath Mountains along the California-Oregon border, invasive shrubs or grasses appear to have taken over. In 2015, some 22% of nesting sites used by the birds in 2014 were not reoccupied and are still empty, Jones says, and this year’s fires could add to the losses. In the western United States, human-caused climate change has dried fuels and nearly doubled the area burned by forest fires from 1984 to 2015.

Lodgepole pines have thin bark and are readily killed, but often bear fire-adapted cones that allow them to regenerate right after fires. He and Chad Hanson, also at the Earth Island Institute, use computerized maps to compare changes in vegetation and fire severity from 1984 until 2015. Today the burned landscape is dominated by thriving young lodgepole pine trees. They believe only about 50 of North America’s smallest rabbit remain. She found it would take more than 150 years, assuming the forests do not burn again in that time.

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