The Northern California Prescribed Fire Council (NCPFC) is a collaborative group of scientists, land managers, tribes, NGOs, and other organizations and individuals interested in issues surrounding the use of prescribed fire. The goal of this diverse coalition of scientists and managers is to “increase understanding and acceptability of prescribed fire in the public realm, while working together…to improve techniques, increase training opportunities, and ameliorate permitting and other regulatory hurdles” (from NCPFC website).
The council holds two meetings each year in different locations across the north state; the meetings include research and management presentations, as well as field tours of different prescribed fire projects. The upcoming meeting will include presentations by a range of scientists and managers, including Ken Pimlott (CAL FIRE Director), Sarah McCaffrey (USFS Northern Research Station), Dennis Martinez (Indigenous Peoples’ Restoration Network), and others. The second day will include a field tour of the 4,600 acre property and research site.
Prescribed fire councils have formed across the country in the last couple of decades, and when the NCPFC formed in 2009, it joined more than 25 other state and regional councils (see map below). The first prescribed fire council was established in Florida in the 1980s, and more councils are forming every year. Though councils were once unheard of in the western US, they are now becoming more common, and recent years have seen the development of a Washington statewide council (2011) and, just last year, a new council in the southern Sierra Nevada region of California.
Participation in NCPFC meetings continues to grow, and over 100 people attended each of the two meetings in 2012. If you have an interest in fire ecology and management, or if you’d like to incorporate fire into your forest or range management practices, attending this or a future meeting could be well worth your time to 1) network with other folks that share your interests, and 2) learn new techniques and approaches for managing fire and fuels in California.
As a recent participant commented, “the council does an excellent job at bringing together different stakeholders from the fire community in productive interchange. The more collaboration between agencies, researchers, regulators, and the public the better! And on top of that, these meetings are lively and fun - the value of building camaraderie in the fire community should not be underestimated.”
For more information, visit these websites:
- Author: Richard B Standiford
Ryan DeSantis is the new University of California Cooperative Extension Forestry and Natural Resources Advisor for Shasta, Trinity, and Siskiyou Counties. Ryan will be responsible for conducting an extension, education and research program that resolves needs and problems in the fields of forest management and ecology.
Ryan grew up in rural New Hampshire, where he fell in love with hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, skiing, mountain biking, and spending time in the woods of New Hampshire and Maine in general. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Forest Science from the University of New Hampshire and then he spent two years working with a National Park in Bulgaria as an ecological volunteer for the U.S. Peace Corps. When he returned to the U.S., Ryan moved to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where he attended Michigan Technological University and earned his Master’s degree in Applied Ecology. Ryan’s Master’s thesis work involved the post-harvest effects of prescribed fire and mechanical treatment on jack pine forest biodiversity and fuel load. Following graduate school, Ryan worked in a fire ecology laboratory at the University of Massachusetts and on fire crews at Cape Cod National Seashore (Massachusetts) and Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming). After leaving the Tetons, Ryan went back to graduate school and earned his Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University in Natural Resource Ecology and Management with a concentration in forest resources. The goal of Ryan’s Ph.D. dissertation work was to advance the understanding of fire and drought as disturbance forces that determine the species composition and structure of upland oak forests in Oklahoma. Following his Ph.D., Ryan worked as a postdoctoral research associate for the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Forest Futures Project, where he determined the economic and ecological impacts of forest threats to Midwest and Northeast U.S. forests.
Ryan is excited to have the opportunity to work with oak and conifer ecosystems and fire, and to once again be surrounded by mountains and forests. He is also excited to explore the trails of rural Trinity, Siskiyou and Shasta Countie, try hunting black-tailed deer, and fishing on the Sac and Trinity Rivers for the first time.
Ryan is stationed at the University of California Cooperative Extension office in Redding but he expects to spend plenty of time working in Trinity and Siskiyou Counties. His contact information is:
Ryan DeSantis, UC Cooperative Extension
1851 Hartnell Avenue
Redding, CA 96002-2217
The vast majority of trees have roots that interact with below-ground fungi, together forming a 2-species complex known as mycorrhizae. In our study, which was recently published in the journal, Mycologia, we looked at the way roots of giant sequoia seedlings formed mychorrhizae relationships and how that influenced the growth of giant sequoia seedlings. Learning about how giant sequoia seedlings grow is particularly important since seedling establishment in giant sequoia has been below what is needed for long-term sustainability. We found that when we planted giant sequoia seedlings, beneficial fungi would attach on to the seedling’s roots mainly when the seedlings were planted in open sunny conditions. While it was hypothesized that the fungi would not be as common on roots in areas that had been burned, there was no difference between burned and unburned locations. Also interestingly, the beneficial fungi actually seemed to outcompete harmful fungi, thus possibly helping seedlings to avoid other diseases. This mycorrizal interaction between tree and fungus is a potentially important requirement for giant sequoia to grow fast as a seedling, and may be a key ingredient in how it eventually becomes the world’s largest organism.
The triple crown of resources: Light, water, and nutrients
Nature is dominated by individualistic, chaotic, and brutal selfishness. Organisms are hard wired to have a primary goal- to reproduce. Often, plants achieve this goal at the expense of other organisms via a fierce competition for the triple-crown of resources: light, water, and nutrients (it’s a baseball theme today). But sometimes it is in an organism’s best interest to be of assistance to another. Such is the case with mycorrhizae, which is a combination of plant roots and fungi attached to each other (“myco” = fungi; “rhizae” = roots).
Giant sequoia is an interesting species because it is so different than any other in so many ways. The most obvious difference that people know about is its tremendous size- larger than any other tree on earth. But the way that it reaches this size, and in fact its entire “life history strategy” is somewhat of an outlier when you compare it to other tree species. All trees form mychorrhizae, but the way in giant sequoia forms this relationship with fungi also appears to be an outlier. It forms what are known as “arbuscular mycorrizae,” which is uncommon in conifer trees. Beyond that, not much is known about this plant-fungus interaction in giant sequoia, but this study offers some insight.
The primary relevance to landowners and stakeholders might be that this research reminds us that planting a tree and getting it to survive and grow is a complex, ecological process. It is important to understand how planted seedlings survive and grow because planting is something we might be doing a lot more of in forests, as climate change and wildfires become forces that hinder natural regeneration across larger and larger areas. Successfully planting a tree, where the measure of success is getting the tree to complete its life cycle (i.e. to reproduce), involves much more than planting a tree and walking away. It involves understanding the resource requirements for that species, and how that particular tree will be able to make its way up into the canopy to become mature. For giant sequoia, and most other trees, the mutualistic interaction that seedlings will have with root colonizing fungi is key information. This study suggests that planted giant sequoia seedlings have the best chance of success when they are placed in distinct canopy openings in sunny conditions, in part because this is where the mutualistic relationship with fungi can benefit giant sequoia most by helping it to grow quickly into the tall canopy above.
By the way, I think most green campaigns that ask you to pay a little extra so that you can sponsor the planting of tree seedings are scams. I would not advise believing or certainly not paying for such “plant-a-tree campaigns” unless you know the species that is being planted, the location, and the method to be used for tracking survival.
Imagine that giant sequoia is a base runner, where rounding third means going home, which in terms of a tree is equivalent to reaching the canopy and reproducing (and for a person on a date, this is of course equivalent to something similar).
The fungus that forms the mycorrhizae is the third-base coach, hoping to be of some assistance to the base runner but hoping to get something in return (a job).
A base runner doesn’t really need the third base coach, but the third base coach definitely needs the base runner to have a job and make a living. Often the third base coach can be helpful to the runner, but only when things are already going pretty well for the runner. When they are rounding third base, the runner is in pretty good position to score, and the third base coach can help them score. Sometimes, however, the third base can be a hindrance if they get in the way or if they give the runner some bad advice. But usually they are a help. And of course no championship team (such as the Giants) would be without a third base coach.
Get it? Giant sequoia seedlings are happy to have this relationship with fungi, but only when things are already going well. Mycorrhizae were more common on seedlings when they were planted in the open, so there was plenty of carbon for the seedling to spare. It is carbon that is the currency paid by the tree, in return for nutrients like Phosphorous from the fungus. And fungus can also keep the plant out of trouble by fighting off pathogenic fungi, kind of how a third base coach can tell the runner to get back when the pitcher tries to pick them off.
Implications? If you plant giant sequoia, do so in distinct canopy openings and pay attention to how the nursery either sterilized or inoculated the soil. In this case, the nursery had sterilized the soil so the mycorrhizae developed on roots after the seedlings were planted in the field. When you plant far away from a mature forest edge, don’t worry about it taking a long time for fungus to colonize the area- they are probably already there because of lateral roots from surrounding trees.
Fahey, C, RA York, and TE Pawlowska. 2012. Arbuscular mycorrhizal colonization of giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in response to restoration practices. Mycologia 104(4):988-997.
- Author: Richard B Standiford
Volume Harvest Trends
California’s North Coast, covering the four counties of Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte, is an important forested region of the state, with redwood and Douglas-fir forests occupying a dominant place in these forests. Since 1948, harvest levels have ranged from a high of 2.8 billion board feet in 1955, to a low of 169 million board feet in 2009 (Figure 1). There have been significant fluctuations from year to year as a result of market variability, policy constraints, and changing landowner demographics.
Figure 2 compares the total state harvest in California to harvest in the North Coast from 1978 to 2011. The North Coast represents 21 to 40 percent of the total statewide harvest over this time period. The species harvested changed from an predominance of old growth timber in the early part of this period, to an exclusively young growth timber harvest today. In California, the amount of timber harvest on federal lands has declined dramatically with changing federal policies, and currently represents slightly less than 12 percent of the total volume harvested statewide, despite the fact that around 50 percent of the total commercial forest acreage is in federal ownership. On the North Coast, virtually all volume harvested takes place on private land, with no year having over 2 percent public harvest since 1998.
Stumpage Price Trends
Stumpage prices are reported annually by the State Board of Equalization as part of the basis for payment of yield taxes. Figure 3 shows the fluctuation of prices for young growth redwood and Douglas-fir, expressed in real 2011 dollars, after deflating with the Producer Price Index. These are the two major species harvested on the North Coast. The trend line is also shown for these price series.
From 1978 to 2011, there was a general upward trend for both redwood and Douglas-fir. On average, real redwood prices increased by 2.4 percent annually, and real Douglas-fir prices increased by 0.9 percent over this time period. There was a rapid increase in prices for redwood from 1984 to 2000, with real price increases over this time period of 10.2 percent. Douglas-fir also had rapid real price increases from 1984 to 1994 of 17 percent. However, prices been flat to declining since 2000 for redwood (9 percent real price decreases), and since 1994 for Douglas-fir (6 percent real price decreases).
Stumpage price trends have had a general upward trend over the past 30 plus years, although there has been tremendous price volatility over this period, amounting to year to year variability of minus 30% to positive 70 percent annually for these two species. This shows that landowners need to have flexibility in the timing of log sales from their properties in order to be responsive to market conditions.
Redwood represents the most valuable tree species in California, and has a unique niche for fencing, decking, and paneling, and is tied in with homeowner remodeling, and is less tied in with the housing market. Douglas-fir is more of a commodity species, and is closely linked with pine and Douglas-fir from other regions of North America, and is highly correlated with the strength of the housing market.
The North Coast is a major forest products region in California, but has seen a very significant downturn in the amount of timber harvest over the past decade. Harvest constraints, brought about by endangered species and watershed protection standards have been partly the cause, as well as the economic recession in the country. These trends will have a major effect on the financial returns for private forest owners in the North Coast.
- Author: Susie Kocher
In the many forested areas where wildfires are currently burning, the question will soon arise: What should be done after the fire goes out? That depends on the severity of the burn and land owner goals.
For high severity burns where very few or no live trees remain to provide seed for the next generation, forest recovery can take a very long time. Typically forest landowners want to restore their lands to a forested condition as quickly as possible. In that case, an active approach can help them reach their goal sooner.
The California Tahoe Conservancy has just released a report on the outcomes of active restoration of 40 acres of Conservancy lands where all trees were killed by the 2007 Angora fire in South Lake Tahoe. That fire burned 3,100 forested acres as well as 250 homes.
Post-fire Conservancy goals were to re-establish a native forest, reduce hazards posed by dead trees, and avoid water quality impacts. Contractors cut large dead trees, skidded them to a landing, loaded them on a log truck and sent to a nearby mill. Some large dead trees were left on site to provide wildlife habitat. Small trees were ground up (masticated) and left on site to control erosion and suppress competing vegetation. Then one- to two-year-old native conifer seedlings were planted.
The report's authors estimate this active approach has hastened the return to a forested condition in the area by about 60 years. This is because planted seedlings are growing quickly while there are few naturally sprouting tree seedlings in adjacent untreated areas and these face competition from vigorously growing native brush that was stimulated by the wildfire. Soil monitoring showed no compaction by heavy equipment during tree removal and minimal soil erosion. Woody mulch left on site was also effective at suppressing brush to give newly planted tree seedlings a competitive edge.
Landowners looking for guidance on post-fire forest management are encouraged to download the free UC Cooperative Extension publication “Recovering from Wildfire: A Guide for California Landowners” and consult the UC Center for Forest Research and Outreach website at http://ucanr.edu/forestry.