One of my ideas for this blog was to be a place where we could share information and learn about topics from others who know more- as well as share alternative framings of an issue.
One topic that recently came up in my office relates to carbon and wildfires. (Yes, the other main topic of interest is the “orderly government shutdown.”)
Is it simply that there is vegetation, and soil, and that ultimately no matter how severe the fire, everything will grow back, the soil will redevelop, and it will be carbon-neutral? Or are there other ways of thinking about this?
In many parts of the country, people like to thin pine trees to either create “historic” conditions, to reduce fuels and change fire behavior (to protect communities), or to decrease stocking so that pines will remain healthy, especially in a potentially warming environment, or all of the above. Many of the carbon discussions seem to be about what happens if you thin trees and either sequester them in various kinds of products, or use them to replace fossil fuels- and how that relates to the carbon you might have released by burning up the stand.
So my question is whether conditions that keep fires from being intense enough to destroy carbon in the soil, are “good” for climate mitigation.
Some of this may relate to timing. Like soil will “grow” back unless something has happened to make that impossible. But if it takes 1000 years, by which time we will have decarbonized our society, should we still count it? Obviously it’s easier to know about replacing trees than replacing soil. Or understanding the damage that fires can do and what it takes to reverse it. Or understanding how changes in climate will affect future development of soils and vegetation.