The Missoulian is reporting that researchers in Montana are taking a closer look at the way their state fights wildfires following concern that it could be leading to the further spread of invasive plant species. Typically large wildfires are attacked from above through the release of flame retardant by aircraft. Unfortunately the flame retardant contains chemicals that can act like a fertilizer on the ground below, injecting the soil with nitrogen and phosphorus that invaders like cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and tumbleweed mustard (Sisymbrium sp.) grab onto and use as a nutrient boost to expand their populations. Since cheatgrass is known to contribute to the strength and size of fires, these aerial treatments meant to fight fire could actually be indirectly contributing to future burns. One possible way being considered to deal with this problem is to follow flame retardant treatments with a reseeding of native seeds.
Thanks to Bill of the Invasive Species of Eastern USA blog for sending in a link to this story.