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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Ponderosa Pines: 2 Views

Ponderosa pines are naturally adapted to fire if the forest ecosystem is properly managed

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, June 27, 2013/Categories: photography, sustainability, environment

Colorado just experienced the most destructive wildfire in that state's history. The Black Forest blaze along the Front Range reduced 509 homes to ruins, killed 2 people, and charred more than 14,000 acres of Ponderosa Pine forests.

The reason for the massive devastation are multiple but includes: expansion of buildings into mountain areas; an extended drought likely enhanced by climate change; tinder-dry timber and brush; bark beetle infested pines; and winds. The blaze was also exaggerated by years of reduced forest management and tree thinning.

Two photos provide quite a story. A NASA remote sensing image captured in infrared light clearly shows the extent of the Black Forest fire damage: red and pink areas are unburned vegetation while black and grey zones were charred by the blazes outside of Colorado Springs.

Black Forest Fire, June 20, 2013 (credit: NASA)

Another photograph from the ground shows the thick Ponderosa Pine forests that existed prior to the fires and the massive results of that density. At left, Black Forest pines exceeded a natural forest density by more than 60% and maybe over 75%. A ponderosa forest in sustainable condition would have wide spaces between the large trees, little undergrowth, and grasses covering the ground. Ponderosa forests are adapted to fires through this natural spacing of the pines, their thick fire-resistent bark, and no underbrush. At Black Forest the pines were dense, overgrown, and decadent from lack of thinning.

According to the Denver Post, residents of neighborhoods that survived the flames "put rocks around their homes, removed vegetation and dead trees from their yards, avoided using mulch, and followed other fire prevention strategies."

Black Forest Ponderosa (credit: file photo)      Proper Ponderosa Density, (credit: file photo)

John Denver once sang about Rocky Mountain High and Country Roads. I'm sure Colorado would prefer being praised for its natural beauty rather than its recent fires, preventable or otherwise.


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