Repost: Guest Videos: Recovery After A Fire (or the K/T Extinction)

I did this last April, as our wildfire season began; it’s timely now in view of the terrible bushfire season that Australia has been experiencing.

Wildfire season is here. With it comes the inevitable reshaping of forests in many vulnerable areas.

Death, and then recovery:

But what about a major mass extinction event?

Fortunately for everyone today, the forests that were present when an asteroid hit Earth 65 million years ago had also evolved with fire.

Not long after the skies cleared, trees once again covered most of the land, from the Equator into the polar circles.

Different from the Cretaceous, different from today, but the ancestors of much that we now see around us.

Unfortunately, the magnitude and complexity of the K/T extinction make the rise of that new global forest quite a puzzle.

How can we begin to understand this megacycle of death and recovery, when it took us so long to identify the killer?

Check out those multi-million-year-old leaves — oak and perhaps beech — from the badlands that look as if they had fallen just yesterday!!!

This isn’t unrelated to my present writing project.

A favorite saying of one of my forestry professors back in the day was that forests are “biological deserts.” He knew that it is only around openings, where enough light gets in to allow diverse plant growth and a variety of micro-habitats, that wildlife can flourish.

This must have been true in the days of the first carnivores, too.

That’s probably why it took some 30 million years — and a little cooling of that greenhouse world — for the first cat-like predators to appear in North America (possibly from Asia where, if I understand correctly what I’ve read, there were already widespread open woodlands).

Featured image: Alex Indigo, CC BY 2.0.

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