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Woods Hole Research Center plans controlled burn in Amazon rainforest

cted in an area in which researchers have taken many measurements prior to the burning ?inventories of thousands of trees to catalogue their species, size, and number, surveys of seedlings, measurements of fuel on the forest floor, censuses of mammals, amphibians, and birds, and monthly measurements of canopy closure at 400 points within each square kilometer of forest. After the burn, a census will be taken of the trees to see how many have survived or how they may be reacting or recovering from the burn; and canopy density will be measured immediately after the fire and at monthly intervals, to monitor the impact of the fire and rate of recovery. Temperature and humidity will be monitored at multiple spots in each forest pre- and post- burn, to detect changes in the microclimate of the forest; and soil moisture will be measured at set points in the parcels at regular intervals, to see how the changes in canopy may effect the water available in the soil. According to Nepstad, "This experiment allows us to measure the impacts of recurring fire on the forest by comparing the trees, the animals, the leaf canopy, and the soil before vs. after the fire."

Fires are set in the litter of the forest floor using kerosene drip torches along parallel 1000m-long transects every 50 meters through the square-kilometer parcels, and allowed to spread through the forest naturally. Firebreaks are cleared along perimeter trails and roads in preparation for the event, and swept clear of debris immediately prior to igniting the fires, to contain the fire within the experimental parcel. In the first round of burning last year, the fire was quite low, creeping along the ground burning leaves and small branches that had accumulated on the forest floor. But in spite of the low stature of this first fire, many trees died through 'girdling' of their trunks ?the fire lingered close to their thin bark long enough to damage the delicate cambium beneath, permanently cutting off the flow o
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Source:Woods Hole Research Center


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