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Egret, Vol. 68, #1
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"Forests contain a large proportion of the carbon
held in all terrestial ecosystems, and therefore wildland fires can
produce a significant amount of GHGs, which in turn contribute to
climate change... This means that as the climate changes there would be
more fire and more GHG emissions, which would further accelerate the
rate of climate change."
in the Forest
by Peter Thomas and Robert McApline
Cambridge University Press, 2010
This scientific text for the general reader reviews the effects of
forest fires and attempts to manage them throughout history, from the
earliest humans to modern-day debates over prescribed burns and
wildland fire suppression. Questions about the ecological effects of
fires, the causes and consequences of climate change, and the limits of
fire control efforts are discussed by a team of four environmental
scientists and fire management experts.
"There is a growing feeling that for forests to retain as much of their
biodiversity as possible, forest management should increasingly emulate
natural disturbances - the so-called natural disturbance hypothesis,"
the authors explain in a section on the use of clear-cutting to reduce
the threat of fire. "Some trees can be left standing to visually
resemble the structure of an area burnt by wildfire."
Some forest managers aspire to produce "natural-looking, species-rich
forests" without the inherent dangers of fire; others question whether
clear-cutting has the same ecological benefits of fire and accuse
its proponents of seeking justification for felling more timber.
While not taking sides on such issues, the text concludes with a call
for more "systems-thinking" and for people to view themselves as "part
of nature, rather than apart from it," respecting the role of wildland
fires in a healthy ecosystem and taking responsibility for their
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