Published 2018-10-09

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Effects of forest burning

The effects of forest fires on plants and insects that need the power of fire to develop are well known. There is less knowledge of how fires affect other organisms. To find out more, Mistra EviEM has carried out a systematic review.

After a summer when Sweden’s forests have burned more than ever, it may seem odd to ponder the positive impact of planned forest burning on biodiversity.

However, the subject is important, not least because forest burning is a commonly used method in environmental management. However, we do not fully understand the effects of fire on various forest life forms.

It is entirely clear that those plants and insects that need the heat of fire to develop, pyrophilous[1] species, benefit; so, too, do saproxylic[2] organisms, which are dependent on dead or dying wood. Knowledge of what happens to other species is more limited.

Researchers at Mistra EviEM have therefore conducted a systematic review of available research, and their findings were recently published in the scientific journal Environmental Evidence.

The primary purpose of their review was to try to clarify whether prescribed burning in temperate and boreal forests could be a useful method for preserving or restoring biodiversity, beyond its known positive effects for pyrophilous and saproxylic species.

In total, 244 discrete scientific studies from large parts of the world have been examined. Although the indications were not always clear, one conclusion in the report is that forest burning has clear positive effects on several habitats.

At the same time, the authors argue that knowledge in the area remains severely deficient. As a result, they can make no general recommendations on whether and how forest burning should be carried out.

Read the full article here

Text: Per Westergård

[1] Pyrophilous (from the Greek words pyr, fire, and philos, love) fungi, plants and animals are particularly favoured by fires and attracted to burnt areas.

[2] Saproxylic (from the Greek words sapros, rotting, and xyloswood) fungi, plants and animals depend on dead or dying wood for their life cycle, either for shelter or as a food source.