Walking through brush, Wind
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
14 Jul 1998
- Yellowstone National Park
- 44.6 -110.5
- Coniferous Forest
Stereo=1; Decoded MS stereo
NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
DD = Don G. Despain
RR = Roy Renkin
AC = Alex Chadwick
MS = Michael Schweppe
ms w/ don talking about fires Dr. Don G. Despain
Walking in forest
levels are a bit low
this was a lodgepole pine forest in 1988 that was ... largely the re-growth ofa fire around 1860 or 70 (walking).
there's a big long stretch of trees about that age that go clear across the park and out into Idaho and when I first mapped that in my vegetation mapping I though well that's interesting all these various fires lined up I thought part ofit burned one yr and then another part ten yrs later and then what happened in 1988 made me think that could all have been one time because very similar things happened then (off-mic) to produce that kind
so it think if we had been here in 1870 we would have been here in 1870, that we'd have seen something very similar to what we are seeing here today. 3:12
Walking away from traffic ...
breaks in recording
some trees are sooty and black and some are silver, why is that?
well those are charcoal on the outside those were dead when fire came through and the ones that are silver that's where the bark's fallen off they were alive at the time the fire came through here and it didn't burn into the wood, it didn't even burn all the way into the bark, I think that's one of the things about fires before wood can burn all the water in has to be boiled away ... that means then that any of this wood that's alive has almost as much water as wood, this just about that proportion, there's also a lot of water in there ...
keeps talking about the way wood burns
you wrote the scientific argument in favor of natural burn policy when Yellowstone was going to adopt that plan as you look around at this forest here now is this what I had
intended ... ?
yes this is what I had in mind, fires, its been here longer than we have, apparently fire's been a part of the wood environment as long as there have been plants on the
why was it that you thought this was a good idea?
um, well the management philosophy was to maintain an area w/o human interference and fire supp is a human interference this is a system that's burned, 1988 is not the first time it burned and this is not the last time ...and if we want to have an area the size of Yellowstone where natural processes can go on and we can learn from those natural processes we shouldn't interfere with them ...
trees themselves are adapted to fire ...
talking about adaptation to fire
as I said lodgepole is very attuned to fire. The parent species of lodgepole that's been here for a long time. there were 230 something elk that burned but after 40,000 that's not a very large percentage ... 14:26
most of the fires come late in the nesting season by that time all of the little baby birds
but if your purpose is to maintain natural processes, to have an area where int by
man is not what you want then fire suppression is not what you do, its an interference
when I looked at Yellowstone it looks to me like a place that's incredibly verdant ... but I gather the soil is actually not very good ... so how do you have all this greenery? ..
we have plants that are adapted to those poor soils, actually there are two diff soils in the park ... (talks about andecite) and these rocks have a lot of calcium, phosphorus and potassium that weathers out as they decompose and those are nutrients that the plants need in building cell walls and carrying out life's functions, those are the same things we need (talks about other kind- rhyolite)
the andesitic soil ... as organic soils have higher water capacity and can produce more
vegetation but then you have plants that adapted to growing on very poor soils. (talking
about adaptations of lodgepole pines) to 20:02
what happens when the fire comes through, in terms of nutrients?
well there's a lot of things. One thing is that nitrogen is volatilized turns into a gas and goes off w the smoke and rains out somewhere else ... so the nit is volatilized there's nutrients in the wood that uh when it turns into ash and then becomes water soluble in goes into the soil if there's a lot of water then its leached out and the sights can actually w repeated fires become less nutrient have less nutrients in the soil and it depends a little bit about how much water goes through ... (talks more about nutrients in soil) ... if you go into the places where the andesitic soils are, the lodgepoles gen. Don't grow as well as they are here there maybe half the size ... prob the reason is that they are competing with a lot more vegetation.. . 22:03
ev in this forest is eventually going to give itself up
well that's right when these trees fall over and begin the decay process the fungi start decomposing all this wood and some of what they release will be leached into the soil and its uh a long process and there's not very much nutrients in the wood so in terms of fire the ashes provide a little bit it wasn't as much as we had thought and the studies that looked at ... said yes there was some but it wasn't much ... there's almost as much nutrient that comes from the rain
and part of it is in this lodgepole pine forests you don't have very much of an organic layer its very thin if you go into the unburned forests its maybe an inch at the most. .. they're deposited and then decompose at the bottom ... and there's not a lot ofnutrients in that there's a lot more nutrients in the needle however than there is in the wood and acidic rocks you may have three or four inches ... 24:06
one of the misconceptions is that the fire destroys eVe We heard a lot of that in 88. You're burning such large areas it'll take hundreds of years for the seeds to migrate back in and uh one of the things that we found is that they don't migrate back in they're there in the soil the least amt of seeds that we found in burned soil was 300/
sq. meter and in grassland soil its well over a thousand.
so the seeds are there...and more imp than that is the rye zones ...killing temp only go three quarters of an inch, except where you've got a rotten log and that rotten logs smolders out over two or three day period and then you've got 5 or 6 hundred degrees ... those areas constitute less than one percent of the land area and it did kill any of the rhizomes ...
asks about how he feels about the controversy over the natural burn policy.
see we started in 1972 studying these fires measuring them and then going home in 1976 we burned a few thousand acres, in 1979 we burned some more thousand in 1981 it was 20,000 acres ... and didn't stir up the political storm ... 27:00
talking about characteristic contributing to drought, fires
is there a lesson from fire of88 or is the lesson what you drew back in 1972 that this is a necessary component of the park?
in the European continent they have a pine species, scots pine ... and the scots pine isn't nearly adapted to fire ...
were people mad at you in 88?
a lot of them were, a lot of them wanted your job ...
I think that's one of the things that the 1988 fires did, was bring the awareness to a lot more people and to hear sometimes other than how many acres were destroyed by the fires that always seemed strange to me ... and ... 700,000 acres were destroyed and yet its still 2.2 million acres in size uh its and they're not destroyed, the sys was not destroyed the lodegpole pine forest wasn't destroyed this is still a lodgepole pine forest its ten yrs old now in 1988 it was 120 yrs old
its a dynamic sys. If you look at the species list here its very similar to what it was before the fire...
esp those who come from the European continent...(fire as agricultural tool)...people used it that way but the ones from the Euro cont. think of it as a destroyer think of it as an enemy and uh I guess where they came from and where my ancestors came from it was but to apply that to the whole world prob isn't appropriate.
when the fires started and we decided that we would let some of them bum in 1988, every day we would get the weather report we would get a specific forecast from the weather service for this area based on what ... combine to get specific forecast
talks about calculating direction of fire.
Break in recording, spot elk.
going after some elk
ambi looking for elk, wind very loud. Fly buzzing. Walking through brush @55:00 looking for elk, occasional bird call, wind, to 56:38
talking about firefighters test and physical training
talks about being able to get out on the fireline because he is trained in firefighting
and its been very fascinating to me to be able to go and watch the fire creep along the grown...burn fir trees, watch it go into the crown and see how that fire develops in the crown,...spread, ...and then be there as the humidity drops and watch that go on several places at the same time and begin to see it start to develop a life of its own and realize that its time to go...59:26 talking about fire research, Canadian research
(Int.--levels are a bit low)
Talking about Canadians doing crown fire research, lighting fire, video of forest, camera crews from England. Just finished and next june they will burn some more.
1:01:28 ms ambi from interview spot (with Don). wind, motor in background, occasional bird chirp, 1:01:57-9 fly buzzing.
less to no motor towards end.
same but louder levels, "not sure if last one was adequate" ms recordings, flies buzzing, motor in background
1:04:07 ms traffic in Yellowstone
1:05: 50 a lot of wind
1:05:56 walking ends at 1:06:00