Saturday, August 31, 2013

Forest Fires: Insights From "Rebel Farmer" Sepp Holzer

Why are we experiencing devastating forest fires and what can we do to mitigate their damage?

Desert or Paradise: Restoring Endangered Landscapes Using Water Management, Including Lake and Pond Construction  by Sepp Holzer

"So called natural disasters and their consequences are created by humans." "Floods,forest fires, desertification, and loss of biodiversity are the logical consequences of the mistakes made by humans for generations." What sort of mistakes is Sepp Holzer thinking of? 

 Water Management

Water is the basis for life and is infinitely reuseable. Holzer retains water from snow melt in the Austrian Alps with a system of lakes and ponds. Polycultures of trees, shrubs, and crops are nourished by the water and in turn protect and improve the soil.


In contrast, in California, water is quickly drained away from upland watersheds for use in the cities. Owens lake and more recently, the briny Mono lake, have seen their waters diverted. The surrounding ecosystems have suffered as a result. Is diversion of water one of the steps leading to the Yosemite Rim Fire? Sepp Holzer states that mature healthy trees do not burn, only trees that are already sickened.

After the Fires Come the Floods

The mixed vegetation in a natural forest, with its many layers of canopy and roots,  protects and maintain soil. After wholesale destruction in a large scale forest fire, the regrowth may not be sufficient to keep soil intact in the next season's rainfall or snow melt, hence floods and mudslides commonly follow.

How Sepp Holzer Restores a Forest and Prevents Flooding

He brings in the pigs! The pigs do what they do best - root around preparing the ravaged soil for the mixture of seeds that Holzer scatters. Holzer also piles up the remaining wood along the contours of the land covering them with soil forming Hugelkultur mounds which store moisture and nourish young growth.
Yes, Holzer's strategy is to observe ecological relationships and let nature do the work.