Thursday, December 15, 2016

How Does Something So Big Cause Such a Small Change That Alters Everything?

As afore mentioned fires have the ability to quite easily create chaos by even making the slightest changes. An interesting paper I discovered evaluated phosphorous levels in the soil. They discovered in their study that fires significantly increase phosphorous within the soils. It turns out that phosphorous is a limiting compound in aquatic systems which means that it is very influential in stream ecosystems. The tricky part is that we have no way to measure these tiny amounts of phosphorous in streams yet the slightest increase can cause complete ecosystem changes. There are studies that have proven that minimal increases in phosphorous cause algal blooms. It was previously believed that these blooms were spreading through boats and fisherman’s gear. Later it was found that phosphorous is the culprit for these ecosystem devastating blooms. Algal blooms are extremely hard to control especially since we don’t have any tools that can measure the compound that is causing them. The study found that within the loose dead soil and ash, phosphorous is increasing after fires and is then either blown or washed off into streams. They also studied how restoration efforts can help prevent this layer of ashy soil from escaping and wreaking havoc. Overall they found that mixing the soil and then planting seeds as soon as possible is the most effective way to help mitigate this if it is done soon enough before heavy rains and strong winds carry the new soil away.

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