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LOOK: Study Shows Forest Fires May Keep Ontario Forests Healthy

Nov 15, 2016 05:41 AM EST

In May, Canada faced one of the worst (not to mention, costliest) fires in its history that destroyed thousands of homes and displaced thousands of residents in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Most people associate forest fires with devastation, fear, and calamity. However, according to scientists, not all forms of forest fires are bad for the environment. In fact, forest fires are natural occurrences which help maintain the health of forests.

The environmental commissioner of Northern Ontario, Commissioner Diane Saxe, released a report indicating that some forest fires are actually good for the environment. Saxe noted that local authorities could "let the fires burn longer" or even "light controlled forest fires." According to her report, as we suppress fires in forests, we are actually creating a disturbance on their natural ecology. It is through these fires that the forests of today are what they are now.

Her report has pointed out that wildfires created "clearings" in the forest allowing for pasture for large animals such as moose and caribou. It could be noted that the disturbance to the health of the forest may be the reason why the population of these animals is dropping. As the brushy undergrowth are cleared out by the fire, faster and stronger regeneration of the surroundings will be apparent.

Furthermore, heat from these fires can soften resin in jack pines' cones which could speed up the release of seeds for younger trees. In addition to that, forest fires can naturally kill pests and reduce the use of chemical controls which harm a number of species within the forest.

Believe it or not, there are such things as prescribed fires. These are normally ignited by park staff and managed by well-trained specialists. Both authorities should be set limits for these permitted forest fires. The end goal is to produce safe and controlled fire to achieve an ecological balance that will maintain the health of Ontario forests.

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