Have your students ever wondered what happens to an ecosystem during a fire and how the ecosystem recovers from it? Your students should read Ricky’s Atlas to learn more about wildfires and how scientists go about studying an area affected by fire. They should then answer questions on their Ricky’s Atlas student sheet. This sheet provides answers to the questions.
1. What was the cause of the fire in the ponderosa pine forest?
Lightning starts the fire.
2. What was the human response to the fire? (In your answer, think about how the fire was spotted, how it was contained, and who was involved.)
After smoke was spotted and fire was seen, firefighters responded by bringing hand equipment, fire trucks, tankers, a bulldozer, and a helicopter to put the fire out. It required multiple days to put the fire out so a fire camp was also established.
3. After the fire burned through the forest, what organisms did Ricky and friends find in the forest and how did they think these “critters” survived the fire?
Grasses and ponderosa pines (thick bark) survived the fire. Insects protected by thick bark can survive. Birds returned to the burned forest after the fire. Animals that can burrow into the soil have a chance of surviving. See page 83 for other examples.
4. Fire can be used as a tool, too. Prescribed fires were used in both the forest and prairie. What’s an advantage and a disadvantage to doing a prescribed burn?
A prescribed burn was used to maintain prairie (chapter 7). Fire can kill off species that invade a fire-dependent forest or prairie. Trees with thick bark and prairie grasses with deep roots can often survive prescribed fires. Species that can survive fire are generally referred to as “fire adapted.” Although generally not thought of as fire adapted, organisms that live in streams often can survive a fire by virtue of the place they live: under the water. Prescribed fires can also burn wood that accumulates over time. Animals can use the open wooded areas and prairie plants. However, prescribed fires need to be maintained. Fires that are out of control can destroy more than was intended, including buildings or homes. There are both positive and negative aspects of using fire as a tool.