We can prevent wildfire damage by proactively using controlled burns removing dry, decomposing, or otherwise vulnerable plants and trees.
Photo: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr
Wildfires have long been a hazard in the west, but droughts and extreme heat waves are making them far more frequent and powerful than they were in past. “Wildfire is a key part of the landscape across major habitats in North America, including the Great Plains, the sagebrush steppe, and Western forests. Historically, fires have acted to maintain a diversity of habitats and, therefore, bird diversity, but climate change brings with it the potential of larger, more destructive megafires than what birds and ecosystems have evolved with,” writes Joanna Wu, Audubon Avian Ecologist. “Their respiratory systems may be more prone to smoke than mammals, and it is unclear how prolonged periods of heavy smoke from megafires impact birds.”
However, properly planned controlled burns are a good method to control invasive species and allow native plants to reemerge. We can mitigate wildfire activity by proactively using controlled burns to prevent the buildup of dangerous fuel loads – such as dry plant litter that is ripe for kindling. Invasive plant species can also be managed this way, both clearing space and enriching the soil for new growth.