- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Safeeq Khan of UC ANR among collaborators on forest treatments in the Sierra
Despite the challenges of an extremely dangerous fire season, including California's largest wildfire in 2022 (Mosquito Fire) impeding access and limiting operations, partners of the French Meadows Forest Restoration Project have wrapped up their fourth season of forest treatments in the critical headwaters of Tahoe National Forest. Safeeq Khan, Cooperative Extension specialist in water and watershed sciences with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, is among the collaborators.
This season, project partners safely treated over 700.../h3>
This winter, a generous amount of rain and snow has fallen on California, but it can't erase the brown swaths of dead and dying trees in the Sierra Nevada caused by five years of drought and decades of forest mismanagement.
Fire suppression and the harvest of the largest and most resilient trees in the forest led to a large population of weak trees. The prolonged drought further weakened the trees' defenses against native insects. Aerial detection surveys show that more than 102 million trees have died since 2010; more than 62 million died in 2016 alone. Public and private landowners are now struggling to recover from this natural disaster.
UC Cooperative Extension forester and natural resources advisor
The fourth winter in a row of disappointing precipitation has triggered a die off of trees in the Sierra Nevada, most of which is now in ‘exceptional drought' status. The US Forest Service conducted aerial monitoring surveys by airplane in April 2015 and observed a large increase in tree mortality in the Southern Sierra (from Sonora south). Surveyors flew over 4.1 million acres of public and private forest land and found that about 20 percent had tree mortality on it, totaling over 10 million dead trees.
The Forest Service found severe mortality in many pine species especially ponderosa pine. On private lands along the foothills of the Sierras, surveyors found extensive areas of dead pines. Large areas of blue and live oak...
An aspen grove is an oasis of color and movement in Sierra Nevada forests. Smooth white architecture in the winter gives way to pale green leaves shimmering with the slightest breeze. In the fall, the leaves turn fire gold and flutter to the ground like giant snowflakes.
Besides their beauty, aspen groves are valued for providing myriad ecological services. The groves add species and landscape diversity to the Sierra Nevada. They offer higher water retention than the adjoining conifer forest, plus wildlife habitat and forage for livestock and wildlife.
Aspens are native to the Sierra Nevada and other areas with cool summer temperatures. Groves are typically clonal colonies that grew from a single seedling and spread when...
Many parts of the Sierra Nevada have not burned in more than 100 years, a significant departure from a natural fire cycle that would characterize a healthy forest, according to Susie Kocher, UC Cooperative Extension advisor in the Central Sierra office.
“The fire interval is completely out of whack compared to pre-settlement conditions,” Kocher said.
In a historical, natural and healthy fire regime, nearly half of Sierra forests would experience fire every 12 years and three-quarters would burn every 20 years. However, only 0.2 percent of Sierra forest land has burned repeatedly at least every 20 years in modern times, while 74 percent has not had a single...