Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Friendly bacteria at work in Northern Ireland’s charred forests

Trails of devastation left by fires in some of Northern Ireland’s protected environmental areas and commercial forests are slowly being brought back to life by bacteria.

Scientists from Queen’s University have found that in areas of forest and heath around the Mournes, where hectares suffered near devastation due to the fires which raged a year ago, the bacteria is “cleaning” the soil.

Mike Larkin, Professor of microbial biochemistry, QUB said that following the fires he wanted to compare bacteria levels on either side of the burnt and unburnt areas of the upland heath.

"The surprise was that there were about 10 times as many bacteria in the burnt area than there were in the unburnt area. What was really happening was, over a brief period, the bacteria were starting to grow in numbers.

"They were growing on the tarry material that was left over by the plants after they'd burnt.

"It's the ideal foodstuff for the micro organisms to grow on. They are the keepers of this soil and they're cleaning it up, preparing it for plant life to take over. They are actively working here today on our behalf,” he told the BBC.

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