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Fire Maintained Ecosystem3 locationsOther
.: Grasshopper :.
Jun 24 2009
U-Bar Trail #28
.: Jim_H :.
May 26 2010
Gila Wilderness Loop
TypeOther
FamilyEvent

Fire Ecology

Fire, regardless of modern opinions on the effects of the chemical reaction in the natural environment, is a phenomenon that has occurred for about as long as there has been organic material on the surface of the planet. Rapid oxidation, as this exothermic chemical process is better known, consumes complex carbon molecules, and can have many effects in the environment. In many environments and ecosystems, fire's occurrence has been frequent enough over time to influence species composition and characteristics.

In the Southwest United States, as well as other regions of North America and the world, numerous examples of ecosystems exist that would not, if fire had not been present at intervals sufficient enough to create and maintain these systems. Frequency would have been 0 to 10 years, typically, prior to the modern exclusion of fire from the environment. Examples include open and fire maintained ponderosa pine as well as open mixed conifer forests, fire maintained grasslands, and grass-oak savannas. In other parts of the United States, Longleaf and shortleaf pine forests, wet prairies, tall and mid-grass prairies, historical White Oak forests, and pitcher plant bogs round out a short list of fire maintained ecosystems. Frequency varied by productivity, but it was generally high, with lower intensity.

Because of the long interval between fires, dense aspen forests, chaparral, spruce-fir forests and pinyon-juniper forests are not considered examples of fire maintained ecosystems, at least for this label, even though they may depend on them for regeneration. These all experience high intensity fire, at long intervals, and are considered examples of ecosystems which experience stand replacing wildfire. Other examples in the west, as well as part of the United States are lodgepole pine forest, Douglas Fir in the Pacific Northwest, Jack Pine in the lake states, Sand Pine in Florida, Pitch Pine in many place in the mid-Atlantic (though that formerly experience more frequent fire), White Pine in New England, and bay forest in southern coastal areas.

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