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Fire and undergrowth in places with a dry season

 
rose macaskie
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It seems to me that fear of firees is a reason to do for undergrwoth and that if you do for undergrowth you get desertidfication and so it is time to talk about what to do with this conundrum. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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Chelle in some thread here suggested that people could cut the udergrowth just before the dry season and that seems to me a good idea, Maybe the government could let people have the stuff they could cut off hillsides to feed live stock as bedding or to sell to gardeners and farmers as mulch. Of course this would leave the ground of the hillsides the undergrowth was cut from without their own mulch but still it is better than the total clearing of all vegetation that occurs in some parts to reduce the fire risk on hillsides. agri rose macaskie.
 
rose macaskie
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      This is a photo of how much undergrowth their can be at the begining of the dry season and everyone can see what a fire risk this supposes. There are lots of wild fennel plants here, there is one in the photo.
     The undegrowth is at the side of a road on the outskirts of Guadalaja city, the capital of the province of Guadalajara in the centre of Spain just north of the province of Madrid. Which is to say a photo at a way lower altitud than the photos i am going to show later, it shows how much growth there can be here during the winter and spring though there is less rain fall here and it is hotter than it is up the mountains of the Central System, the  Northern most point of this mountain chain is in the Province of Guadalajara running into the province of Soria.

    I post a photo of the olive grove behind this patch of weeds of the first phot really it is a bit of olive grove to the right of the photo. The ground has been bared of nearly all plants here, this is a pretty effective way of reducing fire risk and competition for the nutrients of the olives, though it is also a way of making sure there are not many nutrients in the ground, undergrowth would enrich the soil.
    The two fotos were taken on the same day. the soil is good here but planting olives in this bit of Spsain is new they plant the o¡lives that have been taken out in the south becasue of the demands of the common market so this was waste land a short while ago.
  The dry plants of the first photo are proof that undergrowth does not compete with olives for nutrients in summer, they dry up instead. agri rose macaskie.
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rose macaskie
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     Overgrazing is oe way of reducing fire risk.
     If you take the herds of sheep and goats over the same peice of land with enough assiduity the vegetation gets so punished the number of plants is greatly reduced.
    The photo is of a peice of ground that has been over grazed. You can see how few plants there are on the ground.
       The photo is taken in the mountains at a place about sity kilometeres to the north, three hundred meters higher than the the place of the first photos and where there is a bit more than 300 mm more annual rainfall. Any way about fifty meters from my garden so with a lot less vegetation than is possible here as anyone can see who has seen photos of my garden.
  the ultimate expression of how much overgrazing an reduce fire risk are these hills that have been left so bare of b¡vegetation tha tthe soil has blown or been washed off them. below them are wheat fields and they dont water the wheat her so thiis is a place with plenty of rain in wintere and autumn.     
      This photo is of a place that is at the far side of a resevoir that starts in the village i have a garden in and so that cannot be too much further down the mountain though you have to drive quite a way to get here. 
reducing fire risk can creat a desert and fires are a big problem too.

  I suggest that the areas that are to be overgrazed if this method is used should be discussed, there could be overgrazed strips of land considerable width where stopping fires was easier than it otherwise is or overgrazed patches around villages. agri rose macaskie.
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Lee Einer
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rose macaskie wrote:
It seems to me that fear of firees is a reason to do for undergrwoth and that if you do for undergrowth you get desertidfication and so it is time to talk about what to do with this conundrum. agri rose macaskie.


My initial thought is that desertification and overgrazing as a solution to potential summer fires is like suicide as a cure for cancer - unquestionably effective in its stated goal, but with unacceptable downsides.

And it doesn't look like this is truly undergrowth in the sense that it is not under a canopy of any kind, which may be a contributing factor to the dryness. If this same area had the benefit of increased leaf-litter, filtered sunlight and windbreaks, would it still be as dry?

I don't know Spain, but if I saw a similar area in my neck of the woods, my gut feeling would be that it was an area that had sustained serious insult and was creeping back through ecological succession towards a more mature ecosystem. Here. at lower elevations, it would be scrub-oak making its way towards a piñon-juniper forest, I think.
 
Tyler Ludens
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A field of weeds and grass does not present much fire danger if there are firebreaks between fields and around houses.  Dry grass and weeds burn off very quickly without much heat.  Undergrowth of shrubby woody plants with dry dead stems is much more dangerous, and such material should be removed from around structures.  But wholesale clearing of fields and slopes is not a good idea, in my opinion. Clearing should be in patches, in my opinion, to keep erosion from taking the soil. Any material cut down can be placed in low windrows across slopes to stop run off.  These low brushpiles (about one foot tall) do not present as much fire danger as standing dry shrubs.

 
Lee Einer
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The other issue to consider is the consequence of the fire. If the fire has little or no negative impact, then many cures will prove worse than the disease.

A grand example is the ponderosa forests of the southwestern US.

Prior to our intermeddling and "protecting" them from fire for a hundred years or so, the ponderosas in these ecosystems were spread well apart, with twenty or fewer trees per acre.

What kept them spread far apart, and what kept the whole ecosystem healthy, were fires every two to fifteen years.

Because the trees were spaced far apart, fire couldn't easily get up into and spread through the canopy. And because the trees were spaced well apart, there was plenty of sunlight, little competition for nutrients and thus a healthy understory of grasses and shrubs.

The periodic fires burnt the grasses and some of the shrubs, and killed small ponderosa seedlings, thus helping keep the canopy open. Because they were little more than low-intensity grass fires, the real damage was insignificant. More mature trees were largely unscathed, and indeed, required periodic fires in order to drop their seeds and reproduce. Other vegetation was typically adapted to the fire cycle and had strategies for survival or reseeding.

After a century of misguided forest management, the trees are up to twenty times as densely packed, there is little if any understory, and the fire goes right up into the canopy, creating devastating, intense fires that kill pretty much everything, even the soil.
 
rose macaskie
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i Have thought the same sort of thing as Las vegas lee has mentioned when i saw how many kilometres of forest that the spanish government planted in some areas withotu any areas without trees as fire breaks or some such .
      I suppose they are planted by the government, this is not Australia, there arent a lot of people who own big stretches of land. I think that the fault lies with materialism, much as they pretend that pines restore soils they are  a money crop and monoculture.
    Also to blame for such dangerous ways of planting is the growth of pinesoften being a government enterprise, they dont mind losing a lot of trees in one place they have the trees of the whole country, to bring them in money, if they were privately owned the owners would have their whole livelyhood boundiup in the trees and would maybe plant more sensibly.
  another thing that causes fires is the agresion of the locals towards forests, they find no way to earn a penny when all the land iscovered in trees, there are no bits of land to hire to graze sheep on or grow vegetables on, and scrape a living that way in your home village, so they would as soon burn the forest as not. In Gredos where the explotation is sylvo pastoral the woods are open and cows are grazed in them, they go to the town hall to decide who will graze where whn i suppose it is common land,  the woods dont cause bad feeling and are not burnt.

      Ground cover may not be a big  fires risk  however fear of fires is a reason for clearing undergrowth right away here and so for desertification. I wonder if it should not be considered a principle reason for desertifiation in other places. agri rose maaskie.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I also live in an area which used to be at least partially dependent on fire for the prairie ecosystem.  Very little prairie remains as juniper brush grew up when the fires were stopped.  Now these brush areas are considered extremely vulnerable to fires and as this region dries out due to global warming, we can expect many more large hot fires. 
 
Lee Einer
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
I also live in an area which used to be at least partially dependent on fire for the prairie ecosystem.  Very little prairie remains as juniper brush grew up when the fires were stopped.  Now these brush areas are considered extremely vulnerable to fires and as this region dries out due to global warming, we can expect many more large hot fires.   


A second missing element in current US prairie ecosystems is the American bison. An ecologist north of here has a herd on his preserve and has been studying them. They tend to uproot yucca and small juniper with their horns and just flatten bigger juniper by using them as rubbing posts.

 
Jordan Lowery
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the native americans here in california regularly burned areas to INCREASE production of useful and eatable plants. overcrowded overgrown land is of no use to anyone or any animal. regular burning keeps the fires small and keeps the diversity high.
 
Tyler Ludens
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People have been able to emulate the action of wild herds of bison and other grazers with intensive grazing of cattle (and goats and sheep I guess).

http://www.savoryinstitute.com/imported-20100211170933-home/2010/2/25/cattle-can-reverse-desertification-and-global-climate-change.html

I wish I knew how to do this with my small herd of sheep.  But making small paddocks and providing water seems difficult and expensive....
 
Lee Einer
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:
People have been able to emulate the action of wild herds of bison and other grazers with intensive grazing of cattle (and goats and sheep I guess).

http://www.savoryinstitute.com/imported-20100211170933-home/2010/2/25/cattle-can-reverse-desertification-and-global-climate-change.html

I wish I knew how to do this with my small herd of sheep.  But making small paddocks and providing water seems difficult and expensive....


Dan Flitner at the Hobo Ranch in Maes, NM http://hoboranches.com/ does this with great success. His species diversity has increased dramatically and the area's hydrology has improved. IIRC Dan uses portable electric fence to manage his intensive rotational grazing.

Dan is a cattle rancher, not a sheep rancher, but I know Dan and I feel confident that if you give him a call he would be glad to talk with you about how he manages his herd.

The Quivira coalition http://quiviracoalition.org/ also can likely steer you to a resource for how to manage intensive rotational grazing of sheep.

HTH.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thank you!  It probably requires a lot of fencing.....
 
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