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Why wildfires are necessary - Jim Schulz

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Our early ancestors relied on lightning to cause forest fires, from which they could collect coals and burning sticks to help them cook food and clear land. Yet, it wasn’t just humans who benefited from these natural phenomena. Even as they destroyed trees, fires also helped the forests themselves. Jim Schulz outlines the benefits of wildfire.

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TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Animator Iuri Araujo, Guilherme Araujo
  • Director Iuri Araujo, Guilherme Araujo
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Sound Designer Weston Fonger
  • Educator Jim Schulz
  • Narrator Pen-Pen Chen

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There are many species of trees whose life cycle is intimately intertwined with wildfire. The three most common in Western North America are Douglas Fir, ponderosa pine and quaking aspen.

Douglas Fir has evolved a variety of characteristics that make it fire tolerant. One in particular is its fire resistant bark that thickens with age creating an insulating layer that protects the growing cambium.

Ponderosa pine has also developed several strategies to cope with wildfire. Among them are its ability to self prune or shed its lower branches as it grows. This minimizes fire reaching the crown. Its super thick, corky bark is built in layers that peel off when burned. The heat resistant tiles of the space shuttle were based on this natural design.

Quaking Aspen is a deciduous tree and is among the most common trees in North America. It is not fire tolerant but relies on fire to disrupt the hormones that inhibit its root growth as well as heating soil temperatures to assist in the production of sprouts.

For more on fire ecology, visit this site. Fire can actually be beneficial to a forest, watch this video: Fire Behavior and Ecological Restoration. This TED Ed lesson also has information on wildfires and their value to a forest.

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Create and share a new lesson based on this one.

About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animation lessons feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Animator Iuri Araujo, Guilherme Araujo
  • Director Iuri Araujo, Guilherme Araujo
  • Script Editor Emma Bryce
  • Sound Designer Weston Fonger
  • Educator Jim Schulz
  • Narrator Pen-Pen Chen

Share

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