by Carolyn Bucknall, National Forest Foundation
It may seem counterintuitive that burning forests is good for their health. In fact, until the end of the 20th century, many conservationists believed all types of fire were harmful to forest health, leading to decades of intense fire suppression. But as ecologists and foresters have gained a better understanding of the important role fire plays in maintaining forest ecosystems, prescribed fires have become more common.
Fire has always been part of the natural landscape, and many forests have adapted to and need fire to remain healthy. While high-severity wildfires pose extreme risk to forest ecosystems, low to moderate-intensity fires can play a key role in keeping those same ecosystems healthy by reducing understory density and returning nutrients to the soil.