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More frequent fires could aid ecosystems
Date:2/24/2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. With a changing climate there's a good chance that forest fires in the Pacific Northwest will become larger and more frequent and according to one expert speaking today at a professional conference, that's just fine.

The future of fire in this region is difficult to predict, will always be variable, and undoubtedly a part of the future landscape. People should understand, however, that fire is not only inevitable but also a valuable part of forest ecosystems and their management, says John Bailey, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at Oregon State University.

Bailey will speak as one of many invited experts at "Forest Health in Oregon: State of the State," a conference being held at Oregon State University. He describes fire as a force that should be understood, often welcomed, used as appropriate and more frequently incorporated into long-term ecosystem management.

"Forests historically had more fire across much of Oregon, and they would love to have more today," Bailey said. "Burning is a natural ecosystem process and generally helps restore forest ecosystems. It's ironic that we spend so much money to stop fire, because we should learn to see fire as more of a partner and not always an enemy."

Many experts are warning that global warming and drought stress in forests may make them more vulnerable to frequent, larger and hotter fires, Bailey said. That may be true, he added, although future predictions can't be made with a high degree of certainty, and there will still be a wide amount of variation in the types of fires and acreages burned in various years.

But the more important point, he emphasized, is that even if some of the more dire scenarios are true, they shouldn't necessarily be seen as a crisis. Frequent fire in Pacific Northwest forests will promote forest composition, structure and function that's more consistent with how these fores
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Contact: John Bailey
john.bailey@oregonstate.edu
541-737-1497
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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