By Allison Mitchell
Two weeks ago, New Jersey’s biggest wildfire in 15 years swept through the Wahton State Forest in Pine Burns, burning more than 13,500 acres.
Fortunately, the fire broke out in a remote area of New Jersey’s largest public square, leaving no lives or homes. Wartton State Forest covers 122,800 acres (192 square miles) in Berlin and the Atlantic.
13,500 hectares of coal may seem ecologically endangered, but the opposite is true. Fire is an essential ingredient for building and sustaining millennials of pine nuts.
“The wildfires that are most dangerous to people and their property in the Pine Burns do not usually damage the natural order,” says Dr. Emil Devito, a biologist at the New Jersey Foundation for Conservation. “Pine Burns, like many rare species, need fresh fire to survive.”
Recent fires will ultimately benefit the ecosystem.
The pine-barren pine / oak forests are a rare species in the world, helping wildfires to protect the region’s flora and fauna.
The pine barren forests are easily burned because of the dense brush and the dry, porous soil. Wildfires eat dry leaves, needles and twigs on the forest floor, temporarily paddling the tree.
In the new underground and open spaces, plenty of sunlight falls on the forest floor and enriches the soil. Some plants, such as turkey-beard, grow only when they are filled with ashes, when the “smoke” raindrops revive their long-buried seeds.
Peach trees, the main species, are particularly suitable for living in wildfires. Dense bark often protects them from serious damage and can often produce new shoots from the trunk and legs that are affected by fire.
Often when an overgrown peach tree is killed, underground shoots produce new shoots.
Moreover, the heat from the fire causes the pine cones to open up and release their seeds, which fall into the soil and grow in fresh sunlight.
The oak trees in the pine barns – different from the oak trees – are also suitable for wildfires. Species such as blackjack and scrub oaks have large, dense, tuberculosis root systems.
“They are like big big potatoes,” said Russell Julg, senior pastor and educator at the New Jersey Foundation for the Protection of Pines. “They respond to fire by destroying powerful shoots.”
Wildfires kill many oak trees, but that helps to protect the pine forests like pine. If there is no fire, the balance of the forest will reach oak trees, change the pine ecosystem and create habitats that are unsuitable for the region’s rare and characteristic species.
Before New Jersey was colonized by Europeans, lightning and Native Americans occasionally set fire to the Pine Barnes.
Today, hundreds of small wildfires occur in the state each year, most of them quickly extinguished by the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
Homes and people’s lives are better protected in this way, but the pine barren Savana habitat is declining, leaving few rare Savana plants and dependent animals on.
These include red-headed woodpeckers, blue birds, bobbies, various moths, butterflies such as the snowy Elfin and the Scorpion, and many rare wildflowers.
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service deliberately burns thousands of acres of land in Pine Burns.
These ordered fires are controlled fires that improve human safety by reducing potential oil spills on the ground. Also, when some methods are used, they can benefit ecological processes and biodiversity.
Five years ago, Franklin Parker, a 1,800-hectare New Jersey Conservation Foundation conservationist, was caught red-handed around the village of Pin Burns, in the village of Chatworth.
The forest appears to have been burned and damaged, but no damage has been done to the ecosystem.
Within months, the pineapple sprouted new branches, blackjack, and deciduous trees sent healthy new shoots, and huckleberries and ferns reappeared.
Many other pine trees have benefited from sunlight and rich soil, including Turkish beards, sage, and small blues.
One of the wonders is the emergence of previously undocumented Pine Barens people, a beautiful, internationally rare blue-and-purple flower. Years ago, due to sunlight and lack of nutrients, the genetics partially fell asleep, but grew up in a fire-changing environment.
The recent wildfires in Watton Forest, which are believed to have been started by illegal wildfires, are a constant source of danger for human life and property and the damage they can cause to the swamps of the Atlantic White Cedar. Wildfires are just like any other wild-type forest.
However, careful planning of fires and allowing wildfires to burn in remote areas can help reduce the risk of wildfires and protect the Pineland ecosystem.
The recent wildfires in the Warton State Forest are neither permanent nor severe. It will take time, but the native species of Pine Barens will survive and thrive.
Wildfires are one of the most important reasons for the permanent protection of the land in Pine Barens.
Conservation also provides the region’s rich natural resources, rare flora and fauna, and the Kirkwood-Cohansey reservoir, the region’s freshwater source.
Regional planning, in particular Pineland’s general management plan, will help control the expansion and reduce damage to property and lives by avoiding high-risk wildfires.
The plan is a carefully designed national model for growth and natural conservation in a region that is unique and ecologically important, and New Jersey can be proud of its unique place.
To learn more about Pine Burns and Special Ecology, go to https://pinelandsalliance.org/
Allison Michel is the co-director of the Far Hills New Jersey Conservation Foundation.