Eli5 What happens to the areas of forest fires after it’s over?


With all these fires on the west coast of the US, I was wondering what happens to the area that is affected by these fires. Is it just a wasteland of burned trees for years until stuff grows back? Are there just massive swatches of land all across California that are just dead from these things?

In: Earth Science

There is future growth from a burn like this. Can see it in most places that have had big fires.

When an area burns, usually most of the exposed underbrush and tree foliage burns, but the majority of trees and roots remain. All that burned underbrush kills off any pests and moulds, and covers the ground with a nutrient rich ash.

The next spring, the underbrush grows back healthier than ever, and conifer seeds, which get sprayed from cooling cones in the aftermath of a fire, are able to germinate without being choked from light by the larger trees, which take a year to re-grow foliage on their branches, except for the weaker diseased or damaged trees, which tend to begin to rot, providing a home for animals.

So two years after a major fire, the forest will be healthier than ever, with more forage for the animals and healthier trees.

Grass and shrubs come back pretty fast. Trees, well not so much. Lakes and streams take years to recover because they fill with ash. At least that’s what I see in New Mexico.