Hexbyte Glen Cove California fights fire with fire to protect giant sequoias thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove California fights fire with fire to protect giant sequoias

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Flames got close to the General Sherman, the world’s biggest tree, but were pushed back thanks to years of controlled burns that starved the fire of fuel.

The so-far successful battle this month in California to save the world’s biggest trees from ever-worsening forest blazes seems to offer an important lesson: You can fight fire with fire.

Human-caused climate change has made the western United States hotter, drier and more vulnerable to increasingly destructive wildfires, which have this year taken a horrific toll on the region’s forests.

That has included threatening huge sequoias like the General Sherman, which looms 275 feet (83 meters) above the .

Firefighters were able to beat back the flames as they ate into California’s Giant Forest, thanks to decades of prescribed burns that starved the blaze of fuel.

“It sounds a little strange to say this, but there actually has not been enough fire in California for about a century,” said Rebecca Miller, a researcher at the University of Southern California.

“There were policies in place at the federal and the state level throughout much of the 20th century to prevent fire, because there was an incorrect belief that fire was bad for the environment.”

Fires are part of the natural cycle of life, clearing away excess vegetation, purging pests, and making space for new growth.

In the wilderness, these fires eventually burn themselves out.

But as has encroached further into formerly wild spaces, tolerance for these fires has diminished and firefighters are under instructions to put out all blazes as soon as possible.

Parts of the Sequoia National Forest have burned in the most recent blazes.

Now there is a growing realization that this policy is actually contributing to the worsening of forest fires—giving them so much more fuel and making them hotter, faster and more destructive.

Instead, the thinking goes, we should actually be helping smaller fires to burn.

The practice was key to protecting Giant Forest, home to the General Sherman, says Mark Garrett, a spokesman for the force trying to tame the still-active KNP Complex fire.

‘Best tool we have’

The sequoias of Giant Forest, some of which are up to 3,000 years old, have survived countless previous fires.

Their thick bark protects them from flames, and their cones actually need the heat of smaller fires to open up and spread their seeds.

But even these imposing giants cannot cope with the mega blazes tearing through California’s parched landscape.

Around 10,000 of them—up to 14 percent of the world’s total—perished in a huge fire last year.

So there was considerable nervousness when flames from the KNP Complex started eating into the Sequoia National Forest.

Sequoias can survive – and even thrive – in low-level fires, using the heat to open their cones and spread their seeds, but can be killed in the hotter, faster fires that are gripping California.

Garrett says it was the first time an uncontrolled fire had come so close to the General Sherman, which was wrapped in a protective foil.

But thanks to years of controlled burns, the fire couldn’t get much of a purchase, said Garrett.

“We’re seeing things we haven’t seen before, like near 300-foot trees being killed because of the smaller trees in between them that are carrying that fire,” he told AFP.

Controlled burns are “the best tool we have right now.”

The next General Sherman

But not everyone agrees.

“It is not an effective strategy and it’s been very much overblown,” says ecologist George Wuerthner.

Controlled burning has to be so widespread and so regular that it’s prohibitive.

“We just can’t be doing the whole landscape at that kind of frequency. It’s misleading to suggest that that’s a panacea for preventing large fires.”

California redwood trees grow taller – over 100 metres – but sequoias are the largest trees by volume in the world.

Former forest service official Andy Stahl says worthwhile controlled burns would cost billions of dollars.

“You can’t just burn it, walk away from it and say, ‘Well I don’t have to do that again for another 100 years.”

“No, you have to go back there in another five or 10 years and do it again,” said Stahl, who is executive director of FSEEE, an organization focused on ethical forest management.

Which explains why there are very few areas in the western United States where the practice is common—apart from around Giant Forest.

“It’s a very, very small footprint in a small National Park.”

For Garrett, there is simply no choice: “We need more money. We need more people. This needs to be done, all over the mountains and the federal lands.

“We don’t have a lot of brand new sequoia trees in the Giant Forest because it hasn’t seen in so long.

“We need that new generation to replace the General Sherman 2,000 years from now.”



© 2021 AFP

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California fights fire with fire to protect giant sequoias (2021, September 26)
retrieved 27 September 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-09-california-giant-sequoias.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Eta hits Cuba with strong winds, rain thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Eta hits Cuba with strong winds, rain

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Aerial view of a mudslide caused by Eta and where it is estimated that dozens of people died in the village of Queja, in San Cristobal Verapaz, Guatemala on November 7, 2020

Tropical storm Eta brought strong winds and torrential rain to Cuba on Sunday after having earlier cut a destructive and deadly path through parts of Central America and southern Mexico.

The storm was expected to turn toward Florida later and strengthen, with the US National Hurricane Center saying it was “forecast to be near hurricane strength when it moves near or over the Florida Keys.”

Cuba’s meteorology institute Insmet said Eta made landfall at 4:30 am (0930 GMT) on the border between the central provinces of Sancti Spiritus and Ciego de Avila.

Its maximum sustained winds were around 100 kilometers per hour (about 60 miles per hour) with higher gusts, the institute said.

A is considered a hurricane when it hits of 74 miles per hour.

Heavy rains were reported in the eastern half of Cuba, where authorities have evacuated thousands of people due to the risk of flooding.

Insmet said that high winds were expected to produce strong swells and rising sea levels on the southern coast.

It added that Eta would continue crossing over the province of Ciego de Avila before passing through the north coast and turning northwest toward Florida.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in the state’s southern counties on Saturday in advance of the storm, even as residents in the rain either protested or celebrated Joe Biden’s win in the US .

The Florida Keys will close schools on Monday, COVID-19 testing sites were temporarily shut and authorities opened shelters and began handing out sandbags for residents to protect their homes from flooding.

Eta hit Nicaragua on Tuesday as a powerful hurricane before losing strength.

It caused torrential rains that have left some 200 victims dead or missing in Central America.

The most affected country has been Guatemala, where about 150 people are missing.

Rescuers on Saturday searched for the bodies of residents of an indigenous village in the north of the country that was hit by a landslide.

In Honduras, heavy flooding in the north and northwest of the country killed 23 people, according to authorities.

Torrential and a bitter cold front linked to Eta have also claimed at least 20 lives in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.



© 2020 AFP

Citation:
Eta hits Cuba with strong winds, rain (2020, November 8)
retrieved 9 November 2020
from https://phys.org/news/2020-11-eta-cuba-strong.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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