Tucson – Grasslands are being destroyed every year by wildfires and can be replaced by the Santa Catalina mountains in the Sonoran desert.
Wildfires, along with climate change, are changing the mountain range that borders Tucson. New plants will replace old ones that have grown over the centuries.
When hiking in the mountains, travelers You can see the resurgence of the Bighorn fire in 2020, which partially destroyed the Coronado National Forest. Bright green fur, some above the waist, in some areas cover the forest floor. They are in stark contrast to the burning of black trees in recent forest fires.
“When I was young, there were still more than six miles of sandwiches on the Molino Basin. According to Jim Malussa, a research scientist at the University of Arizona, those are now extinct, and it is now more grassland.
He also said that the change in the environment was due to the fire that broke out after the cattle were evacuated. The cows eat the plants that serve as fuel for wildfires.
Another researcher at the university recalled the geographical changes in the northeast.
“Those used to be forested, now they have been taken by indigenous shrubs,” says Donald Falk, a professor of natural resources and environmental protection at the University of Arizona.
The Santa Catalina Mountains are known for their diversity of vegetation.
One of the most recent wildfires in the mountains is the Bighorn Fire in 2020. The 119,000-acre fire, which took more than two weeks to control, is still remembered by Tucson residents.
Fighting the fire cost about $ 44 million and emergency response costs about half a million dollars. The fire took millions of gallons of water and about half a million gallons of fire, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
In the two years since then, scientists have been learning why some forest areas are recovering faster than others and how wildfires are loved by locals.
One factor is climate change, says Folk.
“After a severe fire, slightly different plants can enter, especially because of climate change, making it unsuitable for the plants in the area,” Folk said.
He said that plants in historical fire-prone areas have learned to adapt to wildfires.
Some plants, like some tree species, have dense, heat-resistant bark and leaves that stand up near the crown of the tree to prevent them from catching fire. Other plants have evolved to release their seeds during a fire, so many plants will sprout later.
Falk says healthy plants are returning, but some areas are slow to recover.
“Of course, if the soil is badly damaged, the plants will be slow to recover. The opposite is true,” said Folk.
Danger of buffaloes and other invasive species
Not only native plants but also exotic and invasive species will return. One such species is the buffalograss, which threatens the transformation of the Sonoran desert into grasslands.
Charles Wudder, district commissioner of the Santa Catalina Ranger District in the Coronado National Forest, said invasive species were created to help people, but because they live outside their natural habitat, they have no natural predators to control them and can easily control them. Ecology.
One such species is the buffalograss, which grows in desert areas with trees such as the Sagaro Katie and the Palo Verde.
Scientists and landowners fear that Baffelgrass will gradually turn the desert landscape of Sonora into grassland and cause more fires.
Malusa In 2019, he recalled the Buffelsar fire, in which Saguaros died. The following year, as the buffalo grass grew, the landscape changed.
“I have images of dead Saguars there and… completely transformed into buffalo grass, buffalo grass loves it.
Wudder said buffalo grass is very flammable and fire resistant. This makes the undeveloped deserts vulnerable to small fires.
Forest officials and researchers say that although Buffelgrass did not contribute to the Bighorn fire, it is still a major concern in the area.
Malusa says: “When buffalo grass comes, it is the first step to transform our beloved Sonorra desert.
It is sad to see what will happen in the mountains of Santa Catalina without further improvement.
The Catalina-Rincon Restoration and Fuels Mitigation project has been awarded $ 3.7 million over the next three years to reduce forest fuels and treat invasive species such as buffalo grass. Funding for this project is a grant from the US Department of Agriculture’s Chief of Landscaping Reconstruction Project.
Grand canyon mourning The buffalo in the North Rim Grand Canyon will not be spared this fall.
The nature of wildfires is changing, it is even more harmful.
Experts say that climate change and human activity can change wildfires, making wildfires bigger and more dangerous.
Although wildfires are a natural way to protect forest health, Arizona’s wildfires have become increasingly widespread and dangerous in recent years due to wildfires and human activity.
“Indeed, when you remove fire from these ecosystems, then they lose their balance and are thrown into a place that gives us the kind of horrible fire we have just seen,” he said.
Studies show that 84% of wildfires are caused by human activity, and 97% of wildfires are endangered by humans.
“We have a problem with this wildfire. We put it on fire ourselves,” Falc said.
Stephen Miranda, Forest Service Management Officer at the Forest Service, observed this change in behavior during his 28 years in office.
Miranda is not only more powerful than wildfires due to climate change, but it is also longer than the last decade, which is mainly due to climate change.
Describing the year 2020 as a challenging year for firefighting, Miranda said:
In addition to the Bighorn fire, he said there were three other fires in the area at the same time.
Miranda’s high strength and longevity of the Bighorn fire resulted in high temperatures and low humidity. That year, he said, the rainy season was slower and shorter than in previous years.
In order to better control wildfires, Miranda said landowners should “use all the tools in the toolbox.”
These include cutting down trees, removing low-hanging branches, and conducting firefighting to reduce the amount of fuel that can increase the rate of fire and spread faster, among others.
Pipe fire on the Navajo Nation Holy mountain smoke and smoke in their lungs
Forest recovery is not the same in all forest areas
Not all areas of fire are burned at the same rate, which in part determines how quickly the forest can recover. It can take years for forests to recover in more burned areas.
According to Woodward, wildfires, such as the Bighorn Fire, burn in mosaic design. The Bighorn Fire It was caused by a lightning strike on June 5, 2020.
Some areas were engulfed in flames, and the fire consumed everything on the road, while others remained unaffected.
According to Wudd, only 4 percent of the fires burned at a high rate, resulting in high tree deaths and soil damage.
Most areas of the fire, however, were low (54%) to moderate (31%). About 3% of the area is unknown, and about 8% are unburned or burned at low intensity.
Low-intensity fires are small, like grass fires that do little harm. Moderate fires cause a lot of burnt trees and damaged soil, but those areas can recover over time.
According to Folk, severe fires, but where trees burn and soil is severely damaged, make the area look like a nuclear explosion, which could take years or decades to recover. I will never recover.
Although most of the fires were small and medium-sized, “high-burning areas are heartbreaking.
“It was one of the most beautiful old forests on the mountain. It was a huge loss.”
Coverage of Southern Arizona is funded by azcentral.com and the Republic of Arizona, a non-profit US report in collaboration with the Republic.
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