When thinking about our forests, thoughts of rich earth, lush foliage and intriguing wildlife typically come to mind. But, any true forest lover should, at least once, visit a forest that isn’t alive at all — America’s beautiful petrified forests. These preserved antiquities offer fascinating insights into the makeup of forests stretching back millions of years and are often breathtakingly beautiful. Take a peek at some of the petrified forests in the U.S., and be sure to add them to your next sightseeing destinations. [Read more…]
Do you know where your water comes from? Well, you’re about to. There is a long process every drop of water endures before it reaches our faucets, and we can thank forests for much of that process. Trees work as water filtration systems, intercepting, absorbing and purifying the water that we eventually drink.
The important thing to keep in mind is that all water comes from somewhere, it doesn’t just fall from a cloud into your glass. Most of your water is stored in reservoirs or aquifers, and the water in these containers has to come from somewhere too — much of the water in a typical reservoir does not come from rain that fell directly onto the reservoir. The water on its journey to your reservoir will frequently pick up unwanted molecules, much like fuzzy socks and grass burrs. [Read more…]
Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series focused on forests and climate change. In this article, we focus on the role that forests play in storing and producing atmospheric carbon and the opportunities land managers have to impact those roles. Next Monday’s installment will focus on the impact of climate change on forested ecosystems.
In 2013, Slovenian archaeologist Ivan Sprajc hacked his way through a remote jungle on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The modern-day Indiana Jones was on the trail of a huge discovery: a lost Mayan city obscured by centuries of nearly impenetrable forest.
It wasn’t the first ancient city unearthed from the jungle: Sprajc found two others in the area the following year, and archaeologists have been discovering Mayan, Incan and Aztecan cities deep in Central and South American jungles for a century or more.
A new State of the Climate report confirmed that 2016 surpassed 2015 as the warmest year in 137 years of recordkeeping.
Major indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet.
Last year’s record heat resulted from the combined influence of long-term global warming and a strong El Niño early in the year. The report found that the major indicators of climate change continued to reflect trends consistent with a warming planet. Several markers such as land and ocean temperatures, sea level, and greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere broke records set just one year prior. [Read more…]
In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its total budget on fighting fires. Today, it’s 52 percent and growing. What’s changed?
“Everything,” said Matthew Thompson, a research forester who works at the agency’s Rocky Mountain Research Station in Fort Collins, Colorado. “The length of the fire season, more people on the landscape to start fires or to be impacted by them, more community interest in the relation between managing fires and protecting lives, property, and natural resources, and more media interest partly because there is so much more media today, including social media.”
What hasn’t changed is the agency’s key role in managing wildland fires that threaten local communities and natural resources and its desire to manage them as safely and cost-effectively as possible. [Read more…]
The harder we struggle against wildfires, the deeper we sink, like we’re in quicksand, says Mark Finney, research forester for the U.S Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station.
“It’s called the fire paradox,” says Finney, a fire behavior expert based at the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab in Montana. “The more you fight against fires, the worse they get when they happen.”
In a nutshell, Finney and other forest experts say, periodic fires reduce fine fuels such as pine needles. They stop young conifer trees from growing into big conifers. Meadows form and break up continuous stands of mature forest.
That’s how fire worked its magic for thousands of years. [Read more…]
Large wildfires can be a major contributor to degraded air quality, said Shawn Urbanski, a research physical scientist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station who is working to improve a national wildfire pollution emissions inventory.
Much of the degradation comes from microscopic particulate matter known as PM2.5, which is particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers, which can cause health problems. Smoke also produces ozone, another pollutant.
In 2011, wildfires were responsible for 35 percent of fine particulate matter pollution, the No. 1 source in the country, Urbanski said. [Read more…]
On Nov. 28, 2016, the unthinkable happened. A human-set wildfire on a remote, rocky mountain called Chimney Top in Great Smoky Mountains National Park began what can only be described as an unprecedented northward race that lasted several hours but covered 5.5 miles, until eventually reaching the border of the national park.
Unfortunately, this particular portion of the park border happened to be occupied by the scenic mountain village and well-known tourist destination and ski resort of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Beginning at 5 p.m., the wildfire marched uncontrolled through and around Gatlinburg, burning more than 1,700 structures, including private residences, businesses, resorts and churches.
But the wildfire did not stop in Gatlinburg. [Read more…]
JOHN DAY, Ore. – Highway 395 from John Day (population 1,744) winds through the community of Canyon City and up into the path of the Canyon Creek Complex fire.
Fanned by gale-force winds, tinder-dry fuel and extreme temperatures, flames roared down this narrow canyon on Aug. 14, 2015, destroying 43 homes and nearly 100 barns and outbuildings, devastating the communities of Canyon City and John Day.
The fire charred 110,000 acres before being contained in early November. The most destructive fire in Oregon’s history cost $31.4 million to suppress.
Today, signs of recovery and rebuilding are visible. Several homeowners in the fire’s path have rebuilt, new foundations sprouting amid stands of blackened trees. Residents are moving on with their lives. [Read more…]
A lonely bird call breaks my concentration and I glance upward. Where glacier-topped mountains should be filling the horizon, instead my view is obscured by a strange orange haze. Even the bright sun has given up. It seems to float in the sky as a faint pink ball.
I am a field ecologist working east of the Denali mountain range in Alaska, but the postcard-worthy view of my sites today is obscured by smoke drifting across the border from wildfires burning throughout British Columbia. I have been studying boreal wildfires for years and have a strong understanding of the importance of fire to the boreal forest of Canada.
Boreal wildfires in Canada are spectacular displays of nature’s force — they burn across hundreds of thousands of kilometers and can last for months, sometimes smoldering right through the winter. These fires tend to occur in remote regions that simply cannot be managed. And their zone of impact is much wider than most people ever imagine as soot, ash and smoke drift in long-range atmospheric circulation patterns across geopolitical borders, affecting air quality around the world. [Read more…]