Forest Regrowth After a Fire

May 06, 2014



Photographer: Dave Lynch
Summary AuthorDave Lynch
We only see the top half of a tree. The other half is underground, where roots contain plenty of water and nutrients. When a tree is burned, it senses the destruction and begins to regrow itself. The first thing it needs is sunlight so that photosynthesis can produce food. The still-living plant tissue closest to sunlight is just below the surface and this is where the first leaves appear.

Fires are part of the natural ecology and are often started by lightning strikes. Those produced by man have the same effect as natural fires, triggering a genetic survival response by trees. The burned parts of the tree may or may not be dead, but the new sprouts will eventually take over.

After the Springs Fire on May 2, 2013, in the western Santa Monica Mountains in Ventura County, California, the scene was utter devastation: a black and white moonscape of ash and charred trees. Yet within a few weeks, tiny green shoots dotted the landscape at the base of every tree. The top photo, taken July 16, 2013, shows a burned-out manzanita tree (Arctostaphylos glandulosa adamsii) shooting up new growth. The second photo was taken March 18, 2014. It shows a stand of maple trees (Acer macrophyllum) in recovery. Both are in Sycamore Canyon, Point Mugu State Park.

Photo Details: Top - Camera: Apple iPhone 4S; Focal Length: 4.3mm (35mm equivalent: 35mm); Aperture: f/2.4; Exposure Time: 0.0023 s (1/438); ISO equiv: 50.