The protocol to follow to regenerate burned forests and green areas after a fire:
- Clean the burnt: The remains left by a fire can attract pests and prevent recovery, so a specialised team removes the leaves and branches left over with care.
- Analyse the soil: Sometimes it recovers naturally, so the first thing must be that the experts determine the real state of the substrate.
- A new forest: Reforestation consists of creating a base of seeds and shrubs, preparing the land and then planting new trees.
- Plan rehabilitation: Determine which species should be allowed to regenerate and which are unviable and should be reforested.
- Rest of the ground: According to the experts, it is necessary to let a period of two years pass before the repopulation.
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Recover the soil
Before undertaking any task, a thorough study of the affected areas must be carried out. A team of specialists must inspect the terrain to examine the damage to the ecosystem. In many cases, the land will not need human action to recover, but if it is finally decided to artificially reforest, the first step is to recover the land on which they must be reborn.
The vegetation represents a layer of protection that feeds off the land, but also protects it. After a fire, with the shrubs and trees burned, the rains act directly against the ground causing floods that erode the soil and drag the seeds responsible for the next generation.
So, the main obstacle is the possible erosion of calcined land, especially in areas with slopes. Specialists recommend alternating ditches, and containment dikes that act as a barrier on lands that exceed 10% of unevenness, as well as the development of channels to control alluvium.
Cleaning the burnt areas
Removing burned wood is a fundamental phase of the recovery process, since this damaged vegetation will end up rotting and attracting insect pests that will affect the area very negatively. However, not everything burned should be removed, since in many cases the dead bushes and branches can still serve as help and protection of the exposed ground. In addition, in this cleaning process it is important to determine which trees have been charred and which ones can be recovered. Process for which a specialist is necessary, since inexperienced eyes can see a fully burned tree that actually keeps the inside and roots intact and able to recover.
Looking after nature
After the first stages, the third point is to let the terrain evolve naturally. In spite of what one might initially think, reforesting burnt areas is not an immediate task, and in most cases, it is nature itself that best performs this function. After the work of cleaning up and removing burned wood, the experts recommend letting a period of two years pass before starting any repopulation task. The soil must recover and regain its fertility. Reforesting ahead of time is very inefficient and may even be counterproductive. During these years of “fallow” it is convenient to monitor the evolution of the land and check that the process is on the right track. In the first place, the herbaceous, annual and shrubs that help to secure the soil and prepare the resurgence of the forest mass will be strengthened.
You can also take advantage of these years to recover firebreaks, roads and forest monitoring posts, advancing the structure of the new forest that will emerge over the burned and avoiding new fires that could ruin all the recovery of a soil that at this stage is in a very fragile state. Fire has been another element of nature for millions of years. Its action has shaped life and has forced adaptation to many plant species, the so-called pyrophyte species, which over time have developed defence and renewal mechanisms.
In most cases it is life itself that arises again from the ashes without human help. But if this is not the case, we must carry out a reforestation plan. In Spain, this is aimed at helping less conditioned species and recovering the most affected areas, whose natural regeneration capacity is unfeasible, always with a previous analysis of the vegetation, orography and the individual qualities of each land.
You should start by using herbaceous seeds and shrubs that fix the soil before reforesting trees. To help the plantation be effective and that the repopulated specimens can survive the harsh beginnings, hydrogels mixed with substrates and fertilisers can be used. These are polymers in the form of pearls, capable of absorbing water up to hundreds of times their weight, thus reducing the mortality of the plant and improving the development and growth faster.
Once the soil is favourable, it is recommended to use native species, using one year or a year and a half seedlings from specialised nurseries in each area.
The trees of each region have evolved over millions of years adapting to the conditions of the place, and for that reason their regeneration is more efficient and respectful with the environment and animal species adapted to it. In addition to recovering the vegetation, there is a fauna that depends on the ecosystem that has disappeared and that may be affected if foreign species are used.
Finally, we must bear in mind that each affected land has its own characteristics. And above all, you have to know that recovering an environment that has taken decades, or even centuries, to form will require a similar period of time to return to what it was.
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