(New growth in a ponderosa forest following a burn | Photo Courtesy of Larry Lamsa)
On May 23, 2018 after months of careful planning, the U.S. Forest Service and Deschutes National Forest conducted a prescribed burn on the grounds of the High Desert Museum. More than a year later, visitors can see nature rebounding as wild strawberries, rabbitbrush and manzanita grow anew. How did a seemingly destructive event such as fire support new growth and biodiversity?
A new High Desert Museum exhibit, Nature’s Resilience, highlights the valuable role of ecological disturbances. The original exhibit opens on Saturday, November 23.
Nature’s Resilience will feature large-format photography illustrating the dichotomy of devastation and new life. It will highlight a variety of high desert habitats, including pine forests, riparian ecosystems and sagebrush steppe. The ecological health of various landscapes relies on fire, floods and pine beetle outbreaks. The heat of a wildfire opens the seeds of native plants such as manzanita. Wildfires create snags — standing dead trees — that offer valuable wildlife habitat. From the ruins, new life is born.
“In the high desert landscape, change is constant and dynamic disturbance is both a necessity and a reality,” said Museum Executive Director Dana Whitelaw, Ph.D. “To view the vibrant new growth alongside the destruction reminds us of the power of nature and time.”
Nature’s Resilience will also address the unintended consequences of humans actively increasing some disturbances and suppressing others. For instance, after generations of fire suppression and overgrazing, the spread of native juniper trees can be seen throughout the high desert. After channelizing high desert rivers to prevent flooding, floodplain species dependent on the river can experience significant impacts.
The exhibit features the work of photographers Bruce Block, David Bahr, Ashley Duffus, Paul Glasser and others.
Nature’s Resilience (highdesertmuseum.org/natures-resilience) will be on display through March 29, 2020. The exhibit is possible with support from CHUBB.