Posted by: James Shannon | August 7, 2012

Photo: Aftermath Of A Forest Fire Eight Years On, Maligne Lake, Jasper National Park, Canada

The charred hulks of burned Engelmann spruce trees stand eight years after a small forest fire consumed them near the northern end of Maligne Lake, located in Jasper National Park, Canada.

The forests throughout Jasper National Park are overgrown, packed with highly-flammable spruce and pine trees after years of mismanagement. For years, we viewed wildfires as a bad thing, putting them out wherever and whenever they were spotted. Our intentions were good, but we got the science wrong. Periodically, fires are required to free up space and nutrients for the ecosystem to thrive. Before we arrived on the scene about 100 years ago in Jasper, fires would burn “out of control” until they had finished off their busywork, deprived of the fuel needed to keep the party going. Now, large swathes of the park are long overdue for a thinning by way of flame, and the resulting blaze that is inevitable could be quite catastrophic.

Regardless, this fire was put out as soon as possible, due to its proximity to a popular tourist area with only one escape route … Maligne Lake, located at the end of the lonely (but gorgeous) Maligne Lake Road. It took three hours to get under control, and burned 32 hectares of land in the time that it was actively spreading. A frightening testimony to the speed of and the destructive power of fire, these blackened remains will eventually blow over in a windstorm, yielding the last of their nutrients to the soil, giving the rapidly growing, sun-loving Lodgepole Pine trees beneath them even more food to fuel their ascent from the ashes, a slow, but ongoing example of the circle of life in one of Canada’s most famous National Parks.

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