The Importance of Fire in Ecosystems Essay examples

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The Importance of Fire in Ecosystems Fire is an important part of many ecosystems, affecting wildlife populations in various ways, such as by changing habitat, affecting food supply or quality, or by altering interactions of species. Fire suppression has allowed forested areas to achieve a climax state, which provides less forage for wildlife. While terrestrial wildlife is benefited by fire, large fires through the increase in sediment flow negatively impact aquatic ecosystems. Fire is essential in maintaining biological diversity in the Northern Rocky Mountain forests.

Nutritional Effects
Fire affects nutrition of wildlife in the short-term by increasing the quality of their diets or by alteration of plant content. Long-term
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Grazing Patterns
Fire alters elk and bison grazing patterns during late winter and spring. Since they are able to move large distances, their grazing patterns show preferences for burned locations. During winter, habitat that has recently burned has reduced dead plant material, making access to higher protein containing forage easier. Burned grasslands have greater grass growth during the winter period due to the increase in soil temperature through the additional absorption of solar radiation in the blackened soil. However, topography has a great impact on frequency of grazing of particular locations. Areas with southerly aspects and steep slopes do not retain snow as long and thus are used more frequently for grazing. The beneficial effects from fire last for a few years and then decrease. In grassland and shrub communities, more complete fires result in the effects lasting longer. Overall, winter conditions impact ungulates more than effects of fire on grazing locations. The alteration of ungulate grazing patterns by fire affects other species that are impacted by the ungulates. Bison often graze preferentially around black-tailed prairie dog towns accelerating changes in the plant community surrounding the town. Bison will graze on recently burned locations, thus decreasing their use of areas surrounding prairie dogs colonies. Reasons proposed for the change in bison grazing include the selection for new growth

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