Fort McMurray’s forests continue to bounce back from last year`s wildfire, even if the lingering charred graveyard of trees doesn’t immediately give it away.
Brad Pinno, a research scientist with the Canadian Forest Service in Edmonton, and his team are studying how the trees have responded after the wildfire, and which areas are taking longer to recover.
“The biggest thing is that our Aspen trees are bouncing back incredibly,” Pinno said. “This is going to be a forest in the future that people will be able to enjoy.”
The Fort McMurray wildfire consumed around 741,550 hectares of forest, or 81 per cent of the total area burned by Alberta wildfires in 2016. One year later, blackened and charred trees still stand.
But there are noticeable green shoots that Pinno said are new trees sprouting. For every mature or dead tree that’s counted, the researcher and his team are finding approximately 100 new sprouts.
Stephanie Jean, a graduate student at the University of Alberta who’s working with the forestry service, said she’s noticed that in areas where the wildfire was the most intense, forest re-growth seems to be strongest.
“I think that’s because the trees have all been killed, but it wasn’t so hot a fire it didn’t burn and kill the roots that are producing,” Jean said.
Other areas where the fire wasn’t as intense and trees didn’t die, the roots aren’t sending up as many new shoots, she said.
Informing oilsands reclamation
The study is taking place through the summer and is surveying areas north and south of the city.
The research could inform logging plans for the area and also oilsands reclamation projects. All open-pit oilsands mining operators are obligated to restore the land to its previous natural forest state.