Tree Tips: Fire Dependent Ecosystems

Joel Hackett is a Certified Arborist Residing in the St Mary’s Area. Spending most of the year running Joel’s Tree Service, he also teaches Arboriculture during the winter at Lambton College. Joel Hackett does not assume any Liability for any information in this article.

There is a great deal of misinformation going around about wild fires, and the role a wild fire plays in a fire dependent ecosystem.  For example, common misconceptions hold that wild fires destroy forests, and cause massive pollution.  Smoke pollution is a dangerous product of wild fires, and the property damage caused by the fire is indeed a great tragedy. However, in areas prone to forest fires, fire only causes short-term damage to the ecosystem.

In fact, many forests require fire to thrive, specifically in the Boreal forest, which are largely made up of conifers and evergreens. Fires in these ecosystems help in a number of ways. A fire helps to control natural pests; it also removes dead and useless underbrush, which is in the way of new growth. Also, many conifers and evergreens require heat for the seeds to germinate, and will not grow until after a fire has gone through.

Sometimes, this natural occurrence will become a huge problem, specifically when a fire burns out of control.  Such an occurrence can be linked back to human error, specifically in that of fire suppression for too long of a time; other times, it is an unforeseeable problem, such as the Pine Beetle. The Pine Beetle is a natural pest, which due to warmer winters, and other factors, has destroyed acres and acres of trees in the Boreal forest.  The damage caused by the Pine Beetle leaves dead, dry trees standing, just waiting for a spark. Thankfully, Canada has heroic fire crews, and excellent equipment to deal with these natural disasters!

A Big Thank You to all the workers, and volunteers dealing with the fires in Fort McMurray, and the other locations in Canada currently battling fires at this time.

If you have a question, you can email me at, and I will respond either by email or in a future article. If you would like me to come and assess one of your trees, you can call me at 519-272-5742.

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