National parks walk a fine line between preserving nature and facilitating access for people to enjoy the park. Then when a wildfire comes along, that work goes into overdrive. Dr. Martha Witter is a fire ecologist for the National Park Service, and has to be up on all aspects of nature's strengths and limitations to devise plans for recovery after a fire.
Witter studies all aspects of how a wildfire can affect a park environment — from what happens to the plants and animals to how the soil and water change. Her research helps the teams of experts deployed to parks after a fire be prepared to effectively protect and restore burned environments. Many times, she’s on site — assessing damage before a fire is even out.
With prime hiking season coming up, we asked Dr. Witter to explain the basics of wildfire recovery in the days, months, and years after the embers die out.
Witter explains three phases of park recovery that address safety, access, and the ecosystem after fire damage at Uproxx.