Environmental: Bryce Canyon Forest Fire

Like the Phoenix that rise from ashes, some forests just need to burn. One could mistake this as a seasonal forest barren of all leaves, perhaps winter like, but most of these trees are actually ponderosa pine trees stripped of their needles from a forest fire. There is a paining graphic beauty, the ash covered ground, the monochromatic shades of grey and black, the powdery dust, an eery silence. The absence of life on the surface.

There were a couple of fires in the area that summer. The large ‘Bridge Fire’ was a natural fire ignited by lighting strike and there were also intentionally ‘prescribed fires’. According to Jeff Bradybaugh, Bryce Canyon National Park Superintendent, prescribed fires “…improve wild life habitat and restore forest health.” Read more about them here.

The National Park Service states that, “Many park visitors are alarmed to see that some of our Ponderosa Pines have been scorched or even killed by forest fires. Ironically enough, without the forest fires, ponderosas would not be able to survive. Fires are essential for ponderosas because they help keep the more shade-tolerant tree species from invading Ponderosa Pine’s preferred habitat. While small ponderosas may succumb to a hot fire, only the most horrendous crown-fires or firestorms will kill the bigger trees. Even if all the needles are burned off the tree, it will still survive. Its thick bark acts like an armor, protecting the life force of the tree known as the phloem layer. As long as this inner bark that transports sugars isn’t burned, the tree will be fine.”

Abundant life will return and I am very curious for on my next trip out there.

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