Harvest vs. Fire: Which is Better for the Future of Our Forests?

Fires impact how our forests evolve over time. So does harvesting. So which approach is better for the future of our forests? The same approach that is better for you and me. 

 

How Fire Affects the Regrowth of a Forest

When a fire occurs, the top layers of soil are frequently burned, reducing organic matter and removing nutrients. Natural regeneration can be delayed 5-10 years, but tree spacing will not allow for adequate sunlight to reach the forest floor once mature. This tight spacing makes the forest more susceptible to other casualties such as blowdown, wildfire, insects and disease.

 

How Fire Affects The Regrowth Of A Forest

When a fire occurs, the top layers of soil are frequently burned, reducing organic matter and removing nutrients. Natural regeneration will occur within five-to- 10 years, but tree spacing will not allow for adequate sunlight to reach the forest floor once mature. This tight spacing makes the forest more susceptible to other casualties such as blowdown, wildfire, insects and disease. 

• There is evidence that overgrown forests are more susceptible to wildfire than ones that are carefully managed and harvested. 

• According to a study by the University of Minnesota Department of Forest Resources, a harvested forest site will often have greater diversity and species richness in a shorter period of time than a site affected by fire, particularly in areas where fire was intense.

• Studies by the U of M Department of Forest Resources indicate that timber harvesting has not diminished productivity or plant diversity in comparison to the common natural disturbance of wildfire. 

 

How Harvesting Affects The Regrowth Of A Forest

When a site is harvested, it is naturally regenerated, seeded or planted. This allows shrubs, grasses and other plant species to re-grow more quickly than where fire has occurred.