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Tree and Forest Restoration - Introduction

Key Points

It is important to first assess actual damage to trees and shrubs. Trees that look burned and have their leaves or needles scorched are not necessarily dead.

Hydrophobic soils can significantly decrease the recovery of plant species on burned areas by excluding water recharge to the soil and promoting serious erosion

Contour felling fire-killed trees is an effective tool for minimizing soil and ash surface erosion.

By Peter F. Kolb, Extension Forestry Specialist, Montana State University

 

 

After a wildfire has run across a landscape, it often appears as if the flames have destroyed all vegetation. However, many of our native trees, shrubs, forbs and grasses have some mechanism of coping with fire. Some will grow new leaves or needles; others will re-sprout from their roots, while others have fire resistant seeds that will sprout following a fire.

Much of the response will depend on the intensity and duration of the fire -- fast moving fires versus slow moving heavy wooded fires.

A secondary wildfire effect results from blackened surfaces absorbing more of the sun’s energy. This causes severe increases of soil surface temperatures and plant stems, and may kill plants that had survived the initial fire.

 

Blackened surfaces absorb more of the sun's energy.
This section summarizes some of the things that can be done to help trees and shrubs recover after a wildfire.