What are the effects of wildfires?
If you have ever seen firefighters battling a wildfire and the images they show on TV, it will give you an idea of the immediate damage it can do to wildlife and vegetation. Fires also destroy houses and almost anything in its way. Additionally, the city spends millions of money to fight them with chemicals, logistics, aircrafts and trucks, time and personnel. The economic loss can be huge.
Soils and organic matter:
Take forest soils for example. Forest soils are rich in decaying debris and nutrients, and are composed of many natural features that support a myriad of life forms and organic activities. Wildfires raise the temperatures of these soils to over 900°C and this potentially wipes away almost all the organic value of the soil.
The effect on watershed is also key. Burned organic matter in the soil (volatized organic compounds) also affect the natural layering of the soils. This negatively affects infiltration and percolation, making the soil surfaces water repellent. Water therefore is unable to drain into water tables and the run-offs on the surfaces cause erosion.
Researchers believe that forest fires are not all that bad, as they have some benefits too. In fact, they believe that even though young animals and birds may die, many animals are able to escape or move away from fires. Birds fly away, dear and other reptiles find their own escape routes and so on.
Many plants easily grow back and there is usually good recovery after a fire. Some plants have their seeds opened up and exposed to ash-enriched soils. Examples include serotinus cones, from a tree species such as jackpine. Species like white pine and yellow birch also benefit from forest fires in a similar way.