Public opinion in the United States has been shaped by Smokey Bear, a fictitious character created in 1944 to raise awareness of correct campfire etiquette. Smokey’s mantra is “remember, ONLY YOU can prevent forest fires”, which has fostered a lively culture of fire suppression. Command-and-control attitudes towards fire have become pervasive, to the detriment of ecological communities.
We’ve contributed to a new book which provides the first global synthesis of the ecological benefits of high- and mixed-severity fire. The book includes case studies from around the world, and we describe the Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forests of southeast Australia, where large fires are infrequent and intense. Unlike many eucalypt species, Mountain Ash is considered fire-sensitive because it’s killed by severe fire. However, its regeneration is dependent on high-intensity fire, which desiccates seed capsules and releases up to 14 million seeds per hectare.
The book advocates a paradigm shift that replaces Smokey Bear with nature’s phoenix. According to Greek mythology, the phoenix is a long-lived bird which is repeatedly consumed by flames and reborn.
Buy the book on Amazon, and find out more via an interview with editors Dominick DellaSala and Chad Hanson.