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Monica L. Bond, Rodney B. Siegel, Richard L. Hutto, Victoria A. Saab, Stephen A. Shunk
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Effects
Ecological - First Order
Fire Intensity / Burn Severity
Ecological - Second Order
Fire & Wildlife
Black-backed woodpecker
Fire Regime

NRFSN number: 14505
TTRS number: 28001
Record updated:

During the 2012 fire season from June through August, wildfires in the droughtstricken western and central United States burned more than 3.6 million acres of forest and shrubland. In the hot, dry, windy conditions seen that season, a single spark can start an understory fire that ascends into the canopies of overstory trees and results in a ‘mega-fire’ that escapes control efforts, threatens human life and property, and chars wide swaths of forest. But in the aftermath, a host of pyrophilic organisms such as fire morel mushrooms (Morchella elata), Bicknell’s geraniums (Geranium bicknellii), jewel beetles (Melanophila acuminate), and black-backed woodpeckers (Picoides arcticus) exploit these burned areas for critical habitat elements that are abundant only after such large-scale disturbances. These species are not merely opportunistic. Their distribution is often restricted to severely burned forest conditions.


Bond, M.L.; Siegel, R.B.; Hutto, R.L.; Saab, V.A.; Shunk, S.A. 2012. A new forest fire paradigm: the need for high-severity fires. Wildlife Society News. Winter: 1-7