For residents in California, Greece, and Portugal, destructive wildfires have become the new normal. Exacerbated by climate change, these fires claimed more than 135 lives in California alone in 2017 and 2018. But we can learn a thing or two from these fires. In fact, looking back to nature’s own instinctive fire patterns can help us address wildfires using what The Nature Conservancy (TNC) calls “ecological forestry.”

In natural forests, fire ebbs and flows through areas regularly, creating a wide variety of forest landscapes. This mix of rejuvenated areas and old-growth patches leaves room for ecological growth and protects from large scale fire danger with frequent smaller blazes. However, 20th-century logging practices and fire suppression has left us with dense and unvaried forest terrains that are highly susceptible to wildfire. TNC says getting back to natural fire prevention patterns is essential to reducing wildfires effectively. 

To achieve this, TNC has developed its “Living with Fire” projects which use a careful combination of reforestation, prescribed burns, and fire modeling to achieve a symbiosis between human needs and natural life cycle patterns of our forests. This is yet another example of how looking back at nature’s instinctive behavior can offer modern climate solutions.

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