Historically, in forest ecosystems composed of dry mixed conifers and ponderosa pine trees there have always been reported wildfires. Such fires have always been low severity fires in terms of their severity. In addition to that, their frequency has been low with most of them occurring every 2-25 years. Ponderosa pine trees are characterized by a very thick bark, which is a very good adaptation to help such trees to survive during wildfire outbreaks. Though Santa Fe National Forest is predominantly composed of these mixed conifers and ponderosa pines, the forest is at very high risks of wildfires and the consequences of the occurrence wildfires could prove to be very costly to valued resources and assets in and around the forest. This paper seeks to identify the main causes of wildfires in Santa Fe National Forest and the resulting consequences.
There are two main factors that increase the risk of fires in San Fe National Forest. The first factor that has caused the increase in the risk of wildfires in Santa Fe National Forest is climate change resulting from global warming. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, human activities have greatly increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere about 40 percent in the last three centuries. This is why in the state of New Mexico; tremendous amount of warming has been experienced over the last century. The EPA has shown that there is a causal relationship between higher temperatures and wildfires. Higher temperatures not only increase the extent of wildfires but also increase their frequency and severity. This is why Santa Fe National Forest faces an increased risk of wildfires today. These wildfires are caused by the drier and hooter conditions that are currently being experienced in the forest. The second cause of increased risk of wild fires in Santa Fe National Forest is the change in the structure of the forest’s vegetation. The forest is no longer the same like the past when there was a prevalence of forest fires. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Santa Fe National Forest has experienced significant changes. In the past, the forest was mainly made up of open ponderosa pine stands that had grass growth underneath. Today, however, there are dense stands that are not only overstocked but are also made up of numerous spindly little trees. This has increased the amount of biomass fuel for wildfires. They not only promote higher intensity wildfires but also but also promote fires that can cover larger masses of land. This is because when there is more material to burn, wild fires will not only be intense but will also be larger.
Increased risk of wildfires in the forest has several consequences to the various valued and assets both in the forest and in areas adjacent to the forest. Valued resources and assets refer to the different things of value that could get damaged in case there is an onset of fire in the forest. They include water catchment areas in the forest, the wildlife in the forest, and the private and public property around the forest (Bassett). It also includes the loss of the vast amount of trees that make up Santa Fe National Forest. These fires would also contribute to further climate change because forests are good stores for carbon dioxide and its destruction would lead to the release of tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
In conclusion, Santa Fe National Forest currently faces an increased risk of wildfires than in the past. This can be attributed to climate change contributed by global warming and the change in the structure of the forest. The consequence of this increased risk of wildfires is the destruction of the different valued assets both in and around the forest.
United States Department of Agriculture. “Santa Fe National Forest.” Forest Service, https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/santafe/fire/?cid=fsbdev7_021059
United States Environmental Protection Agency. “What Climate Change Means for New Mexico.” August 2016, https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016- 09/documents/climate-change-nm.pdf
Bassett, Steven. “Wildfire Risk Assessment.” 22 March 2018, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57b62cb1ebbd1a48387a40ef/t/5b0d8e6d6d2a73fa9 a91226b/1527615136172/GSFFC_WildfireRiskAssessment_FullReport.pdf
Although there were a lot of research and reading, this segment of writing did not give me too much trouble over all. At first I spent most of my time on putting all my research together and tried to use them as efficient as possible, then I realized the organization could be found on the text book, so I re-wrote my paper after reading the book.