Sawtooth National Forest, ID (2007)

There’s a fascinating post by New York Times columnist and evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson about the role of fire in nature, particularly forests. Whereas many of us often think of fire as a destructive force that ruins forests and wilderness, Judson points out that fire spurs new growth and can reinvigorate an ecosystem – which makes perfect sense.

But here’s what’s more interesting: many species of plants and trees in fire-prone areas appear to have evolved to be highly flammable. That is, these plants have evolved to cause fires as the propagation of their species – and the destruction of the competition – is dependent on their ability to burn. Read about what Judson calls the “torch-me hypothesis” here.

(For those of you that want to keep reading, check out Judson’s post on the impact of large predators – or the lack thereof – on an ecosystem.)