How natural forest fires and storms are beneficial?

Picture of a forest fire.

The sight of blackened, fire-ravaged trees standing forlornly on a denuded mountain is not a pleasant one.

Aside from ruining beautiful scenery, a forest tire destroys vast quantities of valuable timber.

Decades may be required to repair the damage it does.

For that reason humans see in a forest fire great waste of a natural resource, but in the economy of nature it may not necessarily be a tragic waste.

Over a period of time trees can become too crowded and the forest floor too thickly littered for new trees to sprout and grow.

Fire is one of the ways nature has of clearing away an old forest so a new one can spring up.

The ashes and the gradual decay of the fallen trees contribute to the fertility of the soil, and the clearing of the soil and the exposing of it to direct sunlight help in the propagation of plants and trees of many types.

Trees such as pitch pine, jack pine, lodge pole pine and aspen are helped to survive by a fire.

Otherwise they would be crowded out by other types of trees.

An occasional fire that clears away the litter on the forest floor and opens up the leafy canopy above benefits them.

Their heavy-bodied cones are opened by the intense heat of the fire, allowing the seeds to spill out on the bare ground.

Their seeds soon sprout and in a matter of years a new forest has taken the place of the old one.

The time may seem long to humans, but to nature it is short.

The occasional burning of grasslands and chaparral is not necessarily a waste as far as nature is concerned.

New and vigorous growths usually spring up, to the benefit of the many wild animals that depend upon them for food and shelter.

In marshlands a fire that sweeps away the tall, dead reeds clears the way for young sprouts to grow, providing food for waterfowl.

Thus what may appear as a wasteful fire to humans may be useful in the long-range economy of nature.

On the other hand, tires carelessly started by humans are far too numerous and ill-timed to fall into the same category.

Wind storms and ice storms

A wind storm uprooted tree.

Violent winds and severe ice storms can do a great amount of damage to a forest.

Limbs are snapped off and trees are blown over.

Following a severe storm a forest may have a devastated appearance, but since the forest is made up of living things it does not stay that way.

The damage proves to be beneficial in the long run.

Uprooted trees and broken limbs gradually decay, returning to the soil valuable nutrients.

In the mounds of earth turned up by the fallen trees seedlings take root and in time replace the trees blown down.

For the many years the logs lie on the ground they provide protective shelter to many of the little  animals that scamper about the forest floor.

For wood grubs they provide food and shelter.

Since the majority of wood-eating insects prefer weak or dead trees, they perform a useful service in eliminating such trees from the forest.

As for the damage insects and diseases do to living trees, this is usually kept to a minimum in a virgin forest where humans do not interrupt the natural balance of things.

Occasionally 'a plague of insects may do a lot of damage to a species of tree, perhaps nearly eliminating it from the forest, but the plague passes in time and the forest adjusts to the changes it caused.

Nothing wasted

A bear on a forest tree.

The vast amount of food, such as berries, nuts, and so forth, that is produced in the forest is not wasted when humans does not use it.

It helps to feed the wildlife there.

Even that which rots on the ground is not wasted.

The ground of a forest teems with living animals, most of them too small for humans to see with his naked eye.

One square foot of ground may contain four times as many animals as there are humans on earth.

Most of them are microscopic.

Since these organisms need food just as do the larger animals, they feed on what comes to them.

The fruit, leaves and other vegetable matter as well as animal wastes form their food supply.

If they did not feed on this material the forest would soon be choked with debris.

About two tons of material fall upon an acre of forest floor every year.

This material, which to humans appears wasted, plays an important part in nature’s economy by feeding the fantastically large population of animals that live in the soil of the forest.

Their activity contributes to its fertility.

Bacteria decompose the debris, liberating the chemicals in it that are vital to plant growth.

During their short life-span bacteria decompose a quantity of matter every day that is equal to 100 to 1,000 times their own weight.

The ammonia compounds that result from decomposition are changed into valuable nitrates, which are vital to plant life, as that is the only source most plants have for indispensable nitrogen.

Other chemical substances that result from the breaking down of complex carbohydrates and proteins in the dead matter are not wasted but are absorbed by plant roots and used to produce plant tissue that, in turn, provides food for the many animals that live on vegetation.

When an animal dies and its body falls to the floor of the forest, the small animals there begin feeding upon it.

Worms, insects and bacteria consume what is left by carrion-eating birds and animals.

In a short while nothing remains.

The elements in the body are not wasted but are used again.

Dead bodies, as well as bacteria, animal wastes and dead vegetable matter contribute to the production of the layers of nourishing humus that make the forest soil fertile for plant life.

The valuable elements in this dead organic matter are not wasted but are reused by the living plants.

This fact should cause a person to feel less distressed at the sight of rotting fruit lying on the ground around a fruit tree.

Whether in plant life or in animal life, death, through the process of decay, contributes to the continuation of life.

The great quantity of water that rainstorms dump upon a forest is not wasted water because humans are not living there to use it.

Some of it is caught by the leaves of the trees, and when the storm passes it evaporates into the atmosphere, contributing to the humidity in the air of the forest.

Much that falls upon the forest floor is caught in the mazes of small passageways dug by worms and other insects.

These myriads of passageways act as reservoirs, preventing the water from running off too quickly.

They also serve the good purpose of aerating the soil.

A large amount of water that falls upon the forest floor is taken up by the roots of the trees and other plant life.

By the process of transpiration a certain amount of water is returned to the atmosphere through the leaves of the plants.

During the summer one acre of forest may give up to the atmosphere more than 2,500 gallons of water a day.

Water that does not remain in the soil sinks deep into the ground to build up the underground water supply that keeps springs and wells flowing during the periods when no rain is falling.

It is for this reason that forests play an important part in the water economy of nature.

Although water that quickly runs off bare hills does not build up the vital underground water supply, it is not wasted.

It is eventually picked up by the sun’s rays through the process of evaporation and recycled as rain to water the land once again.

Human activity effects on forests

Soil erosion caused by human activity.

The damage done by erosion is kept to a minimum by nature where humans do not disrupt the balance of things.

Forests and grasslands hold the soil in place and cause water to soak into the ground.

When human exhausts the soil by overworking it or denudes it by overgrazing it, there is nothing to hold the soil in place.

Gradually rains and wind erode it away, and in time the land becomes a desert.

This is the story in northern Africa, where great portions of land along the Mediterranean were once fertile.

The land ruined is now desert, with once prosperous cities buried under sand.

Throughout the earth humans foolishly has ruined much of its riches.

Nature, on the other hand, builds up and conserves natural resources.

The forest is a wonderful example of the economy of nature.

In the balance existing there that continues century after century, with vital elements being used over and over again.

Share this post with your social networks: