Friday, September 9, 2011

Fire Ecology--Calabria

Not fall color!
According to the University of Ohio, Fire Ecology is a branch of ecology that concentrates on the origins, cycles, and future stages of wildland fire. It probes the relationship of fire with living organisms and their environment. Three concepts provide the basis for fire ecology:

1) Fire Dependence: This concept applies to species of plants that rely on the effects of fire to make the environment more hospitable for their regeneration and growth.

2) Fire History: This concept describes how often fires occur in a geographical area. Fire scars, or a layer of charcoal remaining on a living tree as it adds a layer of cells annually, provide a record that can be used to determine when in history a fire occurred.

3) Fire Regime: Fire regime is a generalized way of integrating various fire characteristics, such as the fire intensity, severity, frequency, and vegetative community.

4) Fire Adaptation: This concept applies to species of plants that have evolved with special traits contributing to successful abilities to survive fires at various stages in their life cycles. For example, serotinous cones, fire resistant bark, fire resistant foliage, or rapid growth and development enable various kinds of plants to survive and thrive in a fire prone environment.

Very often these types of definitions sidestep the human element and the use of the term "wildland". Living in Calabria makes this pretty clear. Pesky folks in America always bring up the fact that for centuries, American Indians burned vast acreages on purpose to stimulate food production. Does that make it natural?  Does it matter? As far as we can tell, humans in Calabria light fires and have done so for some time (think sheep). 

The following pictures are photo points we took to check on the fire adaptation of the burned vegetation in our neighborhood.  We will compare these pictures with pictures taken from the same points next spring to see what survived, thrived, or died. Are the fire intensity and severity out of sync with the evolution of the vegetation or has the vegetation changed and is no longer fire resistant? We won't be able to answer these question with our small study--but it will be interesting and we'll let you know what we find next spring. Our hypothesis is that the oaks will benefit, but that all depends on whether the fire severity was within "natural" bounds--flame height, etc. Looks bad now, doesn't it?

The only green right now on this oak is mistletoe (or similar plant parasite)

If you look closely, you can see previous fire patterns (shorter versus bigger green trees)


  1. Guido found a problem with comments so this is a test--

  2. How interesting this post is, I have always been amazed to notice just how quickly the olive trees recover from being in a forest fire.

  3. Thanks, LLM!
    Most of the olives were spared here.



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