Native Americans Offer a Burning Clue to Fight Climate Change

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A team of scientists from Penn University of Agriculture has found a missing clue to protect forests. These scientists discovered that Native American’s regular forest fires helped the forest grow better in the long run. The Native Americans regularly burned forests in order to meet their vegetation needs.

Their regular burning of the forest in the eastern United States led to changed forest composition of the forest, a one more suitable to fight climate change. For example, the eastern forests in US house many hickory, oak, and pine trees. On the other hand, when forest burning ban came into practice, these trees slowly lost ground to shade-tolerant, cool-adapted, and drought-intolerant pyrophobes.

A Profound Change in Ecology

This change is a profound one for forests. Drought-intolerant trees can face severe challenges due to growing changes in climate. Many parts of the US are faced with increased droughts each year. These trees can increase the survival threats amidst climate change.

The researchers from Penn University also poked some interesting questions about climate change. Earlier, many in the scientific community believed that climate change led the transition in forest composition. However, the research in question states that the answer is more complicated than that.

For example, in the eastern forests, man-made fires definitely played a larger role in controlling forest composition. Native Americans driven by their vegetation management technique, knew better ways to regenerate plant species for food. Additionally, in order to feed their game animals, they burned the forests understory regularly. This changed the landscape in eastern forests in the US.

Moderate Forest Burning May Prove to Be Essential

On the other hand, climate change played a more active role in forest compositions in western forests. According to Marc Abrams, the leading author of the research, western forests received much more drought and much more warming. He further added, we have been paying a big price for shutting down fire burning practices.

According to Marc, humans went from modest fire burning to extreme to nearly zero in recent past. He believes, we need to get back to modest levels to support our vegetation management.

The study was published in the Annals of Forest Science recently.

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