The Oregon Wildland/Urban Human Fire Interface

Home/Abstract

How Fire Works

Wildlife-Wildfire Interface

Oregon's Vulnerability

Biscuit Fire

Urban-Wildfire Interface

Firefighting Techniques

Sources

GEOGRAPHY 361 HOMEPAGE

 

 

Wildlife-Wildfire Interface

  The wildlife-wildfire interface has been an essential process in American forests for more than than a thousand years.  Some ecosystems depend on fire fore the continued survival and are highly important in their evolution, and if taken away trends will change tremendously.  Historically, the coexistence of wildlife with wildfires has resulted in a natural level of adaptation. 

  Plants and animals in fire-prone environments have evolved to adapt to "wildfire danger".  Various plant adaptations in the Oregon forests help to protect trees from the extreme heat from wildfire.  Oregon's forest types have a variety of protective characteristics from wildfire. 

  Ponderosa pines are typically impacted only at a moderate scale because of their adaptation through shedding their lower branches.  This helps to reduce the likelihood of upward movement of fire into the crowns. 

 

Notice the lack of branches in the lower region of the Ponderosa Pine

Source: http://www.onrc.org/info_images/forest_types.jpg

 

  Early on Douglas Fir has thin bark, making it highly susceptible to fire damage, as they mature there is a more fire-resistant bark at its base.  Typical mortality of Douglas Fir occurs in crown fires. 

 

        

(left) Oregon's Douglas Fir in the Cascade Mountains, (right) close up picture of Douglas Fir's thick mature bark

Sources: http://www.fvcc.edu/academics/botany/RockyMountainFlora/images/ETHtml.htm

 

  Some tree species thrive on the nutrients produced proceeding fires and sprout new branches after the previously existed branches are incinerated.  Plant adaptations can be greatly effect with the introduction of humans.

  Since early European settlement wildlife in fire prone areas have undergone life threatening changes, altering the wildfire trends.  The misconceived perspective of the danger wildfire's pose to humans is a concern that causes even greater threat.  The introduction to fire suppression leaves lasting effects in wildlands, particularly in areas of historically fire-prone lands.  The introduced of fire suppression modifies the frequency and the severity of wildfires.  A program by the name Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) addresses these situations and places labels on specific severities of wildfires.  This allows an accurate measurement of wildfire severities and can assist in measuring the altered fire trends in a forest. 

  The direct relationship between fire suppression and fire induced ecological disturbances is evident when routine suppression over a long period of time takes place.  Ecosystems of a fire rich history, with frequent fire patterns can in turn accumulate an unhealthy amount of exotic fuel.  The exotic fuels react differently in contact with fire and can result in a more catastrophic fire. 

  Logging is a human approach that effects the forests of Oregon.  Logging of post fire standing and fallen trees are essential in the nutrient regrowth of a forest.  If the trees are logged immediately after a fire, the soils of the forest loses the important nutrients that help in the regeneration of a productive forest.  Many scholars and individuals, particularly at Oregon State University have done extensive research on the 2002 Biscuit Fire and the effects of post logging.

 

  

Post logging completely evacuates the land of important nutrients and can increase wildfire fuels. (Siskiyou Mtns, OR)

Source: http://www.fvcc.edu/academics/botany/RockyMountainFlora/images/ETHtml.htm

  The wildlife-wildfire interface has been greatly influenced since the introduction of European's approach on fire control.  The complexity wildfire management poses is a subject that needs a situational mindset.  Understanding the historic fire return interval of forests, the severity of the burns and the native species involved in each situation assists in the level of management needed.