When forests burn

Wildfires have a “30-30-30 Rule”: they most likely burn when temperatures are above 30C/86F, winds are above 30 kph/18.6 mph, and humidity is below 30%. That threshold is being crossed more often lately.

What does this mean to trees? If we talked to them, we might learn their stories before the disaster.

The eucalyptus grove, planted for cellulose but abandoned when prices fell, has grown old and resin-rich, and now its denizens live in fear.

Cork oaks know that their bark, if left unharvested, will save them from small fires, but rarely do they get to keep their precious bark.

Lofty holm oaks hope they have grown higher than the flames will reach, but how can they be sure?

Some pines live fast, die young, and don’t care; a fire will open their cones for the next generation.

***

Photo by John McColgan, Bureau of Land Management, public domain. It’s sometimes called Elk Bath, and was taken on August 6, 2000, in the Bitterroot National Forest, Montana. It was one of Time Magazine’s Photographs of the Year 2000.

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