Ecology, economics and soil societies brief Congress on post-wildfire resource management

July 14, 2008

On Wednesday, 9 July, three prominent scientific societies sponsored briefings on Capitol Hill to inform lawmakers about how to manage natural areas after they have been impacted by wildfire. Jointly sponsored by the Ecological Society of America (ESA), Council on Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics (C-FARE) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA), the educational briefings were presented by three experts in the fields of forest ecology, forest soil science and resource economics.

Since 1990, the number and acreage of fires has increased by 30-fold compared to historical fires dating back to 1910. During the summer months, these wildfires devastate hundreds of square miles of forests in the western U.S. Burned areas are often vulnerable to soil erosion, which can lead to landslides, river sedimentation, plant and animal loss and contaminated watersheds. The management of burned areas has direct implications for the regeneration of these valuable ecosystem resources.

"Research into effective management of post-fire ecosystems is an investment in our future," says Dr. Norm Christensen, a fire ecologist and president of ESA. "We should rely heavily on our ability to mimic nature to promote healthy ecosystems and sustainable ecosystem services, which benefit all humankind."

In recent years, changes in weather patterns associated with climate change have exacerbated the wildfire problem, creating desert-like conditions across much of the central and western U.S. which, in turn, has caused fires to burn larger and hotter and amplified the negative effects on soil quality and ecosystem services. The panel provided a scientific approach to management of these lands and the restoration of ecosystem services after the fires have burned.

The panel consisted of three wildfire experts:
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Their presentations and one-page summary documents will be available in the near future at: www.soils.org/sciencepolicy/caucus/briefings/

The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) is a progressive, international scientific society that fosters the transfer of knowledge and practices to sustain global soils. Based in Madison, WI, and founded in 1936, SSSA is the professional home for 6,000+ members dedicated to advancing the field of soil science. It provides information about soils in relation to crop production, environmental quality, ecosystem sustainability, bioremediation, waste management, recycling, and wise land use.

SSSA supports its members by providing quality research-based publications, educational programs, certifications, and science policy initiatives via a Washington, DC, office. For more information, visit www.soils.org. SSSA is the founding sponsor of an approximately 5,000-square foot exhibition, Dig It! The Secrets of Soil, opening July 19, 2008 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

Soil Science Society of America

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