Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Without Fire, Red Pines Could Disappear, Model Shows

Date:
August 5, 2002
Source:
University Of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
In the northeastern corner of Minnesota stand towering groves of red pine trees stretching some 80 feet into the sky. But these red pine groves could eventually vanish from Minnesota's Boundary Water Canoe Area if what we usually view as a foe to forests -- fire -- fails to sweep the terrain occasionally, says a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

TUCSON, Ariz. - In the northeastern corner of Minnesota stand towering groves of red pine trees stretching some 80 feet into the sky.

Related Articles


But these red pine groves could eventually vanish from Minnesota's Boundary Water Canoe Area if what we usually view as a foe to forests -- fire -- fails to sweep the terrain occasionally, says a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"The big, natural groves of red pine are one of the most unique features of the BWCA. But, because of fire suppression, we're starting to lose them forever," says Robert Scheller, a UW-Madison forest ecologist working with professor David Mladenoff.

Before people settled the area in the early 1900s, fires -- started primarily by lightning bolts -- swept through the area every 50 to 100 years. While the blazes reduced most vegetation to ashes, they enabled the surviving trees, such as the red pine, to reproduce more easily.

"The fires cleared dense brush so the red pines could drop their seeds on the forest floor and also triggered the release of seeds from pine cones belonging to other fire-adaptive trees," Scheller says.

However, when settlers started taking active measures to suppress natural fires, red pines experienced more difficulty regenerating: other trees and shrubs filled the forest understory. This growth inhibited the red pine from seeding and remaining a key part of this northern ecosystem.

"Red pines have a life span of about 300 years," says Scheller, "and many of the ones in BWCA are already old." Without fire to help them successfully reproduce, he adds, it's unlikely that the older trees will be replaced once they die.

Nearly a century after fire suppression was first introduced, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Forest Service is now considering the use of fire in the boundary waters area. To explore the long-term effects continued fire suppression and regular burnings, Scheller has developed a model that shows the outcomes of both scenarios. The findings were presented today, Aug. 5, at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America.

"We wanted to know the consequences of different kinds of future forest management over the BWCA," he says. "Would reintroducing fire bring back the red pines?"

Taking into account the species' ages and life histories, as well as forest composition, climate and soil, Scheller used the landscape simulation model LANDIS, which was developed at UW-Madison, to predict what might happen across the entire area if fire was reintroduced. Specifically, Scheller studied four scenarios over a 300-year time period: continued fire suppression and fires about every 50, 100 or 300 years.

The model shows that continued fire suppression would lead to the disappearance of not just red pines but also jack pine, aspen and birch trees within 300 years. "If full fire suppression continues," Scheller explains, "the forest may never recover and red pine may be lost as a locally dominant species."

The model suggests that while a fire every 300 years would preserve red pines, it would not save the jack pine, another tree species dependent on fire for reproduction. Fires every 50 to 100 years, as they once occurred naturally, would maintain tree diversity; and, a fire every 50 years would increase the number of red pines.

Fire suppression policies implemented in this century and advocated by icons like Smokey Bear, are meant to preserve the natural beauty of forests, says Scheller. But as he points out, "the model shows that fire is a necessary process for maintaining the natural community. Without it, the characteristics that define the wilderness of the BWCA will completely change."

Scheller's work is funded by the USDA Forest Service, which plans to use the model to develop a long-term perspective on fire and forest management.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "Without Fire, Red Pines Could Disappear, Model Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 August 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020805074416.htm>.
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. (2002, August 5). Without Fire, Red Pines Could Disappear, Model Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020805074416.htm
University Of Wisconsin-Madison. "Without Fire, Red Pines Could Disappear, Model Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/08/020805074416.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

When You Lose Weight, This Is Where The Fat Goes

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Can fat disappear into thin air? New research finds that during weight loss, over 80 percent of a person's fat molecules escape through the lungs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

The Hottest Food Trends for 2015

Buzz60 (Dec. 17, 2014) Urbanspoon predicts whicg food trends will dominate the culinary scene in 2015. Mara Montalbano (@maramontalbano) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins