Bohemian Switzerland national park to rise from ashes, says expert
Czech scientists are currently carrying out research on the site of the devastating fire in the Bohemian Switzerland national park that ravaged over 1,000 hectares of forestland last month. They are collecting and analysing the ashes, as well as studying the rare fire-loving fungi and mosses that have sprouted from the burnt soil.
The extensive forest fire in the Bohemian Switzerland national park, the worst in the country’s modern history, has left behind a seemingly stark and desolate landscape with only bare blackened tree stumps left in the ashes.
However, according to scientists, the park can recover from the disaster fairly quickly, with the ashes functioning as a mineral fertilizer.
Botanist Michal Hejcman from the Faculty of Environment of the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí nad Labem, who has been studying the aftermaths of forest fires all over the world, says people have used ashes as fertiliser since prehistoric times:
“Ashes are a really interesting mineral fertiliser that has a long-term effect on the ecosystem. The moment something burns, it mineralises organic phosphorus and produces mineral phosphorus, which is much more acceptable to plants.”
Mr Hejcman has already collected close to a hundred samples of ashes from different stages and intensities of the fire at the site of the blaze. He also examines the amount of phosphorus, lead or carbon in the soil to calculate the fire’s carbon footprint.
Apart from the ashes, the team of scientists from the Jan Evangelista Purkyně University also search for rare fungi and mosses that feed on the charcoal, sprouting from the ashes.
“Some rare kinds of organisms actually evolve in fire. One of these is anthracophilic organisms. We have already found several species of fungi here that are on the endangered species list that I have never seen before.”
Mr Hejcman also points out that the fire has mainly destroyed the park’s coniferous trees, which are dominant in the area:
“You can see that the burned down parts of the forest mainly consisted of spruce trees affected by bark beetle. The fire progressed to the edge of the oak forest, which is not burnt. If there were natural forests of oaks or beech trees, they would have burned much less.”
While some people argue that the blaze could have been fuelled by the wood left in the area in the wake of the bark beetle calamity, Mr Hejcman believes it wouldn’t have made much difference.
“If you walk through the site of the fire, you will see that even parts that were unaffected by the bark beetle are burnt out. I don't think the national park administration made a big mistake by leaving the bark beetle timber there. A fire can also pass through a healthy forest.”
Based on his current findings on the site of the blaze, Mr Hejcman concludes that the Bohemian Switzerland national park is on its way to a successful recovery.