Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How forests thrive after fires and volcanoes

Date:
August 6, 2012
Source:
Washington State University
Summary:
Forests hammered by windstorms, avalanches and wildfires may appear blighted, but a researcher says such disturbances can be key to maximizing an area's biological diversity. In fact land managers can alter their practices to enhance such diversity, creating areas with a wide variety of species, including rare and endangered plants and animals, experts say.

Mount Saint Helens.
Credit: tusharkoley / Fotolia

Forests hammered by windstorms, avalanches and wildfires may appear blighted, but a Washington State University researcher says such disturbances can be key to maximizing an area's biological diversity.

Related Articles


In fact, says Mark Swanson, land managers can alter their practices to enhance such diversity, creating areas with a wide variety of species, including rare and endangered plants and animals.

"The 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens, for example, has created very diverse post-eruption conditions, and has some of the highest plant and animal diversity in the western Cascades range," says Mark Swanson, an assistant professor of landscape ecology and silviculture in Washington State University's School of the Environment.

Swanson, who has studied disturbed areas on Mount St. Helens and around western North America, presents his findings this week at the national convention of the Ecological Society of America in Portland.

His findings run counter to a widely held perception that most, if not all rare species tend to require older forests, not younger. In fact, he says, a substantial proportion of Washington's state-protected forest plants and animals spend some or all of their life cycle in areas rebounding from a major disturbance. That's because such habitats often include woody debris and snags, varied landscape patterns, and a rich diversity of plants that can be exploited for food and shelter.

"Severe fire in the northern Rockies creates conditions for some rare birds that depend on abundant dead trees, like the black-backed woodpecker," says Swanson. "It can benefit a host of other organisms, too, like elk, deer, bighorn sheep, some frog species, and many more."

Forest disturbances can be natural events, says Swanson, but they can also be the product of carefully designed forest harvests. In either case, he says, forest managers can help maximize biological diversity with practices that extend the time it takes the forest to return to a climax state with a closed canopy.

Clearcutting often leaves too little behind to provide habitat for a diversity of species, Swanson says. Also, clearcut areas are often reforested too quickly to allow open conditions and a diverse herb and shrub community to persist. By the same token, post-disturbance logging can hurt diversity by removing structures favored by plants and animals.

However, where maintaining biodiversity is an objective, like on federal lands, timber harvests can be designed to mimic natural disturbance and create habitat for some species that depend on a forest's recovery, or succession, says Swanson. Afterwards, he says, managers should avoid dense "recovery" plantings that can so shorten a forest's succession that they give short shrift to the ecological role its early stages.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Washington State University. "How forests thrive after fires and volcanoes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120806171325.htm>.
Washington State University. (2012, August 6). How forests thrive after fires and volcanoes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120806171325.htm
Washington State University. "How forests thrive after fires and volcanoes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120806171325.htm (accessed February 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Clouds Fill Grand Canyon

Raw: Rare Clouds Fill Grand Canyon

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) For the second time in two months, a rare weather phenomenon filled the Grand Canyon with thick clouds just below the rim on Wednesday. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
"Cloud Inversion" In Grand Canyon

"Cloud Inversion" In Grand Canyon

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 29, 2015) Time lapse video captures a blanket of clouds amassing in the Grand Canyon -- the result of a rare meteorological process called "cloud inversion." Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Biofuels aren&apos;t the best alternative to fossil fuels, according to a new report. In fact, they&apos;re quite a bad one. Video provided by Newsy
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