Navigation Links
Wildfire and an example of its important link to the ecosystem

Thursday, May 31, 2012 - Traveling the western U.S. state of Nevada in the 1860s, a young American writer named Mark Twain heard a "world of talk" about the beauty of Lake Tahoe and so set out one August day to see the lake perched high in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Determined to make the 11-mile journey on foot, Twain and his companions became briefly discouraged after toiling up one mountain and then another to no avail. But they trudged on until "at last the Lake burst upon us," Twain wrote in his 1872 book, Roughing It.

One hundred and fifty years later, visitors to this border region between California and Nevada still marvel at Lake Tahoe, but sadly the "jewel of the Sierra" is not the same gem it was in Twain's time. Boating on the lake during his trip, Twain said he could see rocks at least 80 feet below the surfacea degree of clarity that scientists attribute to "ultra-oligotrophic" conditions, meaning exceptionally nutrient-poor and pure. Since the 1960s, however, Lake Tahoe's renowned water quality has been in slow decline, and exactly why "is the $64,000 question," says soil scientist Dale Johnson of the University of Nevada in Reno.

Damaging blazes sweep the Tahoe region regularly, and by the time Johnson teamed up with his University of Nevada colleague, Wally Milleran expert on Tahoe's water qualityscientists already knew how catastrophic fires could affect downstream streams and lakes. Wildfire can leave slopes bare of vegetation and unprotected from erosion. Burning also releases nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfate, and other biochemicals locked in plants, wood, and soils, allowing the nutrients to run off downslope or seep into groundwater. But when Miller and Johnson began their studies, they discovered something that few, if anyone, had suspected: Not only could a major disturbance like fire affect Lake Tahoe, but so too could a lack of disturbancethe absence of fire. "The results were very surprising and therefore very hard to publish," Johnson says. "No one believed it."

But the findings also lead to a dilemma. On one hand, wildfire is beneficial in that it burns away decades of accumulated organic material, which Johnson and Miller have shown can potentially be a slow but significant source of nutrients to Lake Tahoe. On the other hand, severe wildfire can also deplete forests of nitrogen and send pulses of nutrients downstreamnot to mention the damage it does to timber and private property.

"So what do you do?" Miller asks. The answer lately embraced by forest managers is to mimic the natural, Sierran fire regime that existed before aggressive fire suppression began. Managers will purposely light small, controlled fires to burn away accumulated woody debris. Or they'll remove wood with harvesting equipment or chip it on site.

But managers don't want to remove too many nutrients from the system, since they're needed to support future generations of trees. So Miller and Johnson have been studying the practices' impacts on nutrients and on water quality, just as they earlier investigated catastrophic wildfire and fire suppression.


Contact: Teri Barr
American Society of Agronomy

Related biology news :

1. Wildfires cause ozone pollution to violate health standards, new study shows
2. When it comes to forest soil, wildfires pack 1-2 punch
3. Wildfires result in loss of forests reserved by Northwest Forest Plan
4. Where theres wildfire smoke, theres toxicity
5. Plants could override climate change effects on wildfires
6. NASA study says climate adds fuel to Asian wildfire emissions
7. In the warming West, climate most significant factor in fanning wildfires flames
8. Wildfires set to increase 50 percent by 2050
9. Georgia State researcher to use $1 million grant to improve computer models for fighting wildfires
10. Developing blanket protection from wildfires
11. Undergrad engineers research everything from water quality to wildfires this summer
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Wildfire and an example of its important link to the ecosystem
(Date:11/2/2015)... , Nov. 2, 2015  SRI International has been ... provide preclinical development services to the National Cancer Institute ... will provide scientific expertise, modern testing and support facilities, ... preclinical pharmacology and toxicology studies to evaluate potential cancer ... The PREVENT Cancer Drug Development Program is an ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015 Daon, a ... that it has released a new version of its ... in North America have already ... v4.0 also includes a FIDO UAF certified server ... already preparing to activate FIDO features. These customers include ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... Connecticut , October 29, 2015 ... a biometric authentication company focused on the growing ... smart wallet announces that StackCommerce, a leading marketplace ... be featuring the Wocket® smart wallet on StackSocial ... NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), a biometric ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... ... November 30, 2015 , ... Global ... Practice (GMP) 10000 in the Santiago Marriott. The Global Stem Cells Group GMP ... a world-class team of qualified medical researchers and practitioners, experienced in administering stem ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... interventional radiology technique shows promise for helping morbidly obese patients ... being presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological ... --> --> Gastric artery ... a way to stop bleeding in emergency situations, but the ... obesity is new. Mubin Syed , M.D., interventional ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... , December 1, 2015 Partnership includes ... for the u niversity , ... support treatment s cale - up ... (ARVs)   Africa , where licensees based anywhere in ... based on SDN technology. --> Africa , where licensees based ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... Mass. , Nov. 30, 2015 ... HART ), a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ ... received written notification from The NASDAQ Stock Market ... bid price requirements. The letter noted that as ... HART,s common stock having exceeded $1.00 per share ...
Breaking Biology Technology: