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Wildfire and an example of its important link to the ecosystem
Date:5/31/2012

d 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.


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Contact: Teri Barr
tbarr@sciencesocieties.org
608-268-3976
American Society of Agronomy
Source:Eurekalert  

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