Researcher states that fire in nature can do more good than harm

Dr. Lori Daniels will be speaking about fire and the environment at the College of the Rockies on May 22. - Photo submitted
Dr. Lori Daniels will be speaking about fire and the environment at the College of the Rockies on May 22.
— image credit: Photo submitted


An award-winning fire-ecology researcher will give a public talk on May 22 at the College of the Rockies in Cranbrook.

Dr. Lori Daniels, Associate Professor in the UBC Faculty of Forestry, will talk about her ongoing research in the East and West Kootenays. The public is welcome to attend this presentation, which is hosted by the Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration Program.

Daniels is an award-winning academic with several publications to her name. She runs the Tree Ring Lab in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences at the University of British Columbia. She works closely with the Trench ER Program and the Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society to conduct research about all things fire-, tree-growth- and climate-related.

“Understanding the historical function of fire and other natural disturbances is critical if we are to anticipate and respond to global climate change effectively,” Daniels said.

Historically, fires maintained the dry forests of B.C.  “Fire scars show that surface fires burned every 10 to 40 years, on average,” she said. “Severe fires that generate new forests burned less frequently.

“Both forest-maintaining and initiating fires were associated with years and decades of warm, dry climate—providing insight into future fire regimes due to climate change.”

Daniels said fire regimes have changed during the 20th century due to combined influences of humans and climate.

“In the past 60 years, despite warmer temperatures, fires essentially were eliminated from many forests due to very effective fire suppression,” she said. “In absence of fire, tree density and fuels can build-up, increasing the chance of a severe fire.”

By trying to protect our forests and communities from fire, she said, communities have made many dry forests more susceptible to severe fires. The changes in forests also have negative impacts on habitat and biodiversity.

Daniels said innovative, creative, and scientifically-based mitigation and restoration can improve forest resilience and is one way for society to prepare for the effects of climate change.

“We’re learning now how to fight fire with fire,” she said. “Where our good intentions have altered the forest, we need action.”

Daniels’s current work includes supervising PhD candidate Greg Greene in his study of the dynamics of forest ingrowth in the Trench valley bottom. Greene has spent last summer in the region sampling trees to discover links between forest ingrowth and encroachment and diminished tree growth. He will return again this summer to collect more data on encroachment and to produce an overlay map assessing exactly how much grassland and open forest has been lost since 1950.

This presentation is of great interest to anyone involved in grassland ecosystem restoration, wildlife habitat, and wildfire/urban interface fuel management.

The Rocky Mountain Trench Ecosystem Restoration program would like to thank the Provincial ER Land Based Investment Program in funding Dr Daniel’s work and presentation in Cranbrook.

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