Solutions for Higher Education engages in deeper reflection of critical issues in the world of colleges and universities.
In Episode 35, President Scott L Wyatt and Professor Steve Meredith are joined by Dr. Jackie Grant to discuss how forest fires impact the environment and change the landscape, as well as how seed collection can help in restoring forests. Grant is an assistant professor of biology at Southern Utah University as well as the director of the Garth and Jerri Frehner Museum of Natural History.
Grant collects local seeds to accelerate the recovery of forests after fires.. Seeding forests after a fire is important to plant regrowth and recovery and also mitigates the dangers of mudslides and debris flows, potentially accelerating recovery by several decades.
“After something like the Brian Head fire, you can't just even have hundreds of thousands of seeds, you need to have millions of seeds,” said Grant. “So, we're part of this small cycle of different partners throughout the whole country and we help start the process by gathering the seeds that then are planted to develop a crop of millions of seeds that will be used for restoration later wherever they're needed.”
In forests made up of conifer trees, it can take up to 200 years for a forest to recover, but given the current rate of climate change it is not certain these forests will ever be the same.
“When we start thinking about current trends in temperature and rainfall patterns and snowfall patterns, we know we're not going to see the conditions that originally produced these forests again because the climate has changed since those trees were little sprouts,” said Grant. “So, we can't actually predict with too much accuracy when we would see that same forest reappear, because the trees won't be adapted to these new temperatures and precipitation patterns.”
Our forests may never return to the same levels of biodiversity and growth after a fire, but efforts to gather seeds and help these forests recover may give them the help they need. Efforts to reseed after the Brian Head fire are underway, and research done there could help shape the way we respond to forest fires.
Listen to Episode 35 here.