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New research reveals how trees respond to wildfires

College of Natural Resources prescribed burn in the University of Idaho Experimental Forest.
Joseph Pallen
/
University of Idaho
College of Natural Resources prescribed burn in the University of Idaho Experimental Forest.

When a wildfire rages through a forest, what happens to the trees that live there? The conventional wisdom is that they all get burned up, along with the rest of the forest.
 
But it turns out that trees, like people, react differently to wildfires and can suffer the equivalent of first, second and third-degree burns and the trees that suffer the least can often recover over time.

That’s just some of what Alistair Smith has found in his 20 years of researching fires. He’s the professor and chair of the department of Earth and Spatial Sciences at the University of Idaho, and he was recently recognized for his work. Smith joined Idaho Matters to talk more.

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