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Ecology, economics and soil societies brief Congress on post-wildfire resource management

On Wednesday, 9 July, three prominent scientific societies sponsored briefings on Capitol Hill to inform lawmakers about how to manage natural areas after they have been impacted by wildfire. Jointly sponsored by the Ecological Society of America (ESA), Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), the educational briefings were presented by three experts in the fields of forest ecology, forest soil science and resource economics.

Since 1990, the number and acreage of fires has increased by 30-fold compared to historical fires dating back to 1910. During the summer months, these wildfires devastate hundreds of square miles of forests in the western U.S. Burned areas are often vulnerable to soil erosion, which can lead to landslides, river sedimentation, plant and animal loss and contaminated watersheds. The management of burned areas has direct implications for the regeneration of these valuable ecosystem resources.

"Research into effective management of post-fire ecosystems is an investment in our future," says Dr. Norm Christensen, a fire ecologist and president of ESA. "We should rely heavily on our ability to mimic nature to promote healthy ecosystems and sustainable ecosystem services, which benefit all humankind."

In recent years, changes in weather patterns associated with climate change have exacerbated the wildfire problem, creating desert-like conditions across much of the central and western U.S. which, in turn, has caused fires to burn larger and hotter and amplified the negative effects on soil quality and ecosystem services. The panel provided a scientific approach to management of these lands and the restoration of ecosystem services after the fires have burned.

The panel consisted of three wildfire experts:

  • Dr. Norm Christensen, forest ecologist at Duke University. Sponsored by ESA
  • Dr. Dan Neary, soil scientist at the Rocky Mountain Research Station, U.S. Forest Service. Sponsored by SSSA
  • Dr. Stephen Swallow, resource economist at the University of Rhode Island. Sponsored by C-FARE


Contact: Sara Uttech
Soil Science Society of America

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