- (Public Value) UCANR: Building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems
- Author: Ella Griffith
- Author: Lindsey Jasperse
Fire in Sonoma County
Today's forests are less healthy and more prone to severe wildfires due to decades of fire suppression, lack of vegetation management, changing land use patterns, and extreme events such as drought. With vegetation build-up, compounded with dry landscapes and warmer temperatures, fire behavior has started to change resulting in more and larger high severity wildfires. Additionally, over 50% of the population in Sonoma County lives in the Wildlife Urban Interface, or WUI, meaning that the majority of our communities are dispersed amongst natural and forested areas and thus are at high risk for wildfire.
A Coordinated Approach to Managing Fuels
Successful management requires collaboration between public and private stakeholders to mitigate fire risk across the landscape. Thus far, Sonoma County has focused on defensible space and home hardening; critical practices; however, there are few tools to assist private landowners and managers in evaluating and deciphering fire hazards on a large landscape scale. Fuel management can appear complicated, is often expensive to implement, and planning an approach for reducing fuels requires detailed information about the landscape. With thousands of individual land parcels in Sonoma County, landowners need tools and resources to support them in reducing fuels and managing for future wildfires.
The Wildfire Fuel Mapper Toolkit
As wildfires increase in frequency and intensity, Sonoma County residents need to take steps to reduce fire risk across the region's diverse landscapes and communities to protect our people, our homes, and our natural resources. In order to do so, however, Sonoma County residents also need to be equipped with the necessary tools, resources, and information.
- Fire history
- Vegetation type and density
- Fuels such as fuel build-up
- CAL FIRE assessments of fire hazard level
- Slope and aspect
- Detailed aerial imagery
- Zoning and responsibility area designations
These maps can be used to achieve a number of different land management goals. They can help property owners assess fire hazards on their land and delineate management units. They can be used to create a vegetation management plan to improve forage quality and quantity available for livestock or wildlife. The map reports can be shared with professionals and specialists to get an overview of the property and understand the fire history of the parcel. They can even be used to highlight hazard severity and the need for treatment when applying to funding to supplement a fuel management plan.
In addition to providing detailed information about fuels and fire hazards on a landscape, the Wildfire Fuel Mapper provides several other resources. These resources are designed to help landowners understand how to use their map reports and start taking action, whether it be conducting a prescribed burn, implementing grazing, or creating a formal management plan. These tools and resources connect users with:
- Funding and cost-share opportunities
- Educational and technical resources to learn more
- Materials to support creating a management plan, individual parcels or in a watershed
Wildfire Fuel Mapper Lake Sonoma Pilot Projects
The UCCE is currently testing the Wildfire Fuel Mapper in the Lake Sonoma watershed. We are conducting site visits with users to ground-truth the map reports and collecting feedback from both landowners and specialists throughout the region. Additionally, the UCCE is partnering with Circuit Rider to plan and implement 3-6 pilot projects using the Wildfire Fuel Mapper map reports. These pilot projects will be conducted by the Circuit Rider youth crews, and will demonstrate a variety of vegetation management strategies while promoting workforce development and professional skills for local youth.
Learn More & Get Started
As fires continue across Sonoma County, fuel management will be critical to protecting our communities now and in the future. The Wildfire Fuel Mapper provides landowners with the tools and resources needed to understand and begin managing fuels.
To learn more about the Wildfire Fuel Mapper, download your custom parcel or watershed report, and explore our interactive Story Map, visit: Wildfire Fuel Mapper. For further questions or to get involved, contact Dr. Stephanie Larson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Author: Michael I Jones
The Mediterranean oak borer (Xyleborus monographus), or MOB, is an invasive ambrosia beetle that was first collected from declining oak trees (Quercus spp.) near Calistoga (Napa County) in 2019 (Fig 1). Subsequently in early 2020, the beetle was detected in the neighboring counties of Lake and Sonoma, and more recently a separate infestation was discovered in suburbs near Sacramento. MOB is native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa and was likely introduced to North America in infested wood material. Within its native range MOB is a pest primarily of dead and dying oaks. In California, MOB has been detected in valley oak (Q. lobata) and blue oak (Q. douglasii). Given the cryptic nature of the insect, the extent of the infestations, and presence of dead trees with evidence of the beetle, the insect has likely been in California for more than five years.
Ambrosia beetles are interesting insects because they carry symbiotic ambrosia fungi which they cultivate along their galleries (boring tunnels) for food. Most ambrosia fungi are weak pathogens (typically only colonizing the tissue near the galleries), but a fungus associated with MOB, Raffaelea montetyi, appears to cause wilt disease in cork oaks in Portugal. This fungus and several others associated with MOB, have been recovered from infested trees in California and research is underway to determine if these ambrosia fungi could cause similar diseases in North American oak species.
MOB appears to initially attack the canopy of host trees where it kills branches, with persistent infestations spreading to the main stem and eventually killing the tree (Fig. 2). The extensive network of MOB galleries can weaken trees and make them more susceptible to failure. Thus far, trees in California with MOB infestations appear to have been stressed by other biotic and abiotic factors prior to MOB colonization, so it is unclear if the insect and its ambrosia fungi can infest and kill healthy trees.
Signs of MOB infested trees are declining canopies, tiny exit holes and boring dust in cracks of the bark, and occasionally sap flux; however, these symptoms could be caused by other boring insects or diseases. The best way to detect MOB infested trees is to observe the pattern of canopy decline. MOB begins by colonizing a large branch in the upper canopy, so newly infested trees will often have one declining branch while the rest of the canopy appears healthy. As the infestation progresses, the entire canopy begins to decline and in some instances, heavily infested branches can produce extensive epicormic sprouting with leaves diminished in size and densely clustered (sometimes referred to as “popcorn foliage”). The most reliable way to confirm MOB is from the architecture of its galleries, which are trellis-like, intersecting, and fan out in a single plane (Fig. 3A). These gallery patterns distinguish it from native Monarthrum spp. of ambrosia beetles, which have galleries branching from a single point and do not intersect neighboring galleries (Fig. 3B). These native beetles will only attack trees that are already dead, dying, or diseased.
Research is currently underway to determine the extent of the two infestations and to find effective management strategies to control MOB. From other similar invasive insects, such as the shot hole borer in southern California, options like chipping (≤1” size), solarization, burning, or burying infested material will likely be crucial in mitigating spread. However, since infestations can be cryptic for several years, there is significant potential for the beetle's range to expand as they can be moved in infested wood and are capable fliers. The best method of control is preventing the movement of the insect and its host material from known infested areas. For more information, please visit: ucanr.edu/sites/mobpc.
If you have a tree that you believe to be infested, please contact the California Department of Food and Agriculture:
- Pest Hotline: 1-800-491-1899
- Report a Pest: cdfa.ca.gov/plant/reportapest/
Michael I. Jones, PhD, UC Cooperative Extension Forest Advisor, Mendocino, Lake, & Sonoma County, email@example.com, (707) 463-4495
- Author: Mimi M Enright
The UC Master Gardener Program of Sonoma County (MGSC) Garden Sense program via its sponsoring organization, Sonoma Water, was named the recipient of the Smart Water Application Technologies (SWAT) Outstanding Public Engagement Award on October 29, 2020.This award recognizes a water provider with a successful program focused on public engagement and education on smart, efficient irrigation technologies and practices.
The Garden Sense program, initiated in September 2013, is available free of cost to any Sonoma County resident. MGSC presently has 46 trained volunteer Garden Sense consultants who meet with residents in their gardens to evaluate their existing landscaping and irrigation practices, and advise them on how to increase their irrigation efficiency, reduce or remove their lawns, and create climate-appropriate gardens based on their functional needs. Over 900 client consultations have been conducted since the program inception.
Clients who have received a Garden Sense visit are surveyed and asked to rate how helpful the program has been in helping them complete their lawn removal project and/or change their home irrigation practices. The majority of respondents indicated that the visit was either ‘Very helpful' or that they ‘Could not have done it without them'. Conservative estimates of water savings as a result of Garden Sense consultations are equivalent to 26 million gallons of water over the life of the program! One of our clients who was new to the Sonoma County area stated:
“We couldn't have done it without them . . . their advice and expertise was essential to our successfully creating a low water-use landscape. Thank you so much!”
Visit Garden Sense for more information
about the program, or to request a visit.
Here is a summary of some of the work our office is doing during shelter in place.
Fire & Resiliency
UCCE Sonoma is building on the foundational work of other county departments such as Sonoma Water and Permit Sonoma, by providing outreach to private landowners to address forest health, vegetation management and fire fuel reduction.
Lake Sonoma Decision Support System: Development of an online geo spatial reporting tool to help landowners assess:
Match.Graze: development of an online database that connects land owners and grazers.
- Filmed educational videos
- Creating website
- Current status: roll out in early June.
Good Fire Alliance: partnership with Audubon Canyon Ranch to assist landowners in managing fire fuels through prescribed burning on private and publicly owned lands. The following prescribed fires are in the active planning stage:
- 100+ acre burn unit at Cooley Ranch near Lake Sonoma; late May.
- Sonoma Ecology Center is planning a burn at Van Hoosear Wildflower Preserve; late May - early June.
- Bodega Pastures spanning several weekends in October/November.
Resilient Landscapes: Master Gardener collaborative project to:
- Host Firewise webinars
- Develop materials for Fire Safe Sonoma's Living with Fire brochure and webpage resource.
- Post Fire Survival/Mortality: research project to develop a quick and simple post-fire tree survival reference tool to aid with triage of burned landscapes.
- Working with local fire departments to homogenize fire-resilient landscape standards.
Oak Tree Health: organized, hosted and presented:
- California Oak Workshop with science based oak health information. Over 500 participants.
- Sudden Oak Death Blitz pivoted to online, educating and distributing 93 test kits to the public.
Food Systems & Security
- “Stay Home Grow Food” series has reached over 350 people with videos plus resources via an extensive social media campaign.
- Gardener Sense program delivered by video conference to help homeowners reduce water use.
- Master Gardener's are pivoting their classes to webinars.
The value of a strong, connected local food system to sustain the resiliency of our communities has never been more clear.
Coordinating with Sonoma County Food System Alliance and strategizing for a series of video conferences on longer term emergency food response planning & strengthening the local food supply chain looking to local production & distribution as part of meeting food need.
- Meeting on March 23 with over 50 emergency food responders to strategize on coronavirus response.
- Chairing the Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) Food group. Continue to collaborate with the group to meet the needs of emergency food organizations.
- Sonoma County Food Recovery Coalition
UCCE used connections to secure donations of over 12,000 wine boxes to
Redwood Empire Food Bank for boxing and distributing food.
Local Meat Supplies: Mobile Slaughter Unit (MSU)
UCCE is working with local livestock producers in Marin/Sonoma to create a business plan for an MSU which can assist local livestock producers with a local, safe option for processing livestock.
- Applying for USDA grant to assist these producers to determine the functionality of keeping it in production.
- Will develop educational and management strategies to ensure economic security for small-scale livestock producers.
Integrated Pest Management
- Collaborating with UC Davis researchers to continue projects that address soil and fungal pests that shorten the lifespan of vineyards.
Critical research on the newly detected invasive Mediterranean oak borer (pictured) found in valley oak in eastern Sonoma County. Collaborators include Cal Fire, US Forest Service, and CDFA.
4-H youth educational programs have continued to engage youth and adults with online technologies.
- Developed fact sheets to support volunteer educators in delivering online programs available at Youth Development Resources
- Short-term educational programs have been implemented reaching elementary-aged children with science and art content.
- Ongoing programming has been transitioning online focused for teens around college and career readiness (Juntos 4-H) and youth participatory action research.
Annual Sonoma 4-H Open House and ChickenQue transitioned from a full-day chicken BBQ lunch fundraiser to a radiothon.
- Partnered with local radio The Bull 93.7 to do a radiothon.
- The station promoted 4-H with interviews of staff, volunteers, and youth.
- The event also served as a public awareness campaign showcasing the program's legacy helping youth reach their full potential.
Working with local dairy and livestock producers to apply for grants from CDFA to reduce greenhouse gases:
- Alternative Manure Management Program
- Healthy Solis Program
If funded, these grants would bring over $5 million to reduce GHG by 4,154 MTeCO2
Support Local Producers
- Working with local creameries and FEED Sonoma, to develop a dairy CSA box option.
- Revisit the County Lands for Food Production program initiated by UCCE to increase the availability of county owned land to communities, farmers and ranchers.
- Find Local Food & Aid the Community
Providing information and updates.
Coronavirus Resources webpages provides information for agricultural enterprises focusing on financial resources, Ag worker safety and food safety and includes resources for where to find food from local farms and for opportunities to volunteer.
Sonoma county residents love their oak trees, and with good reason: Oak woodlands are a source of immense value not just to the more than 330 types of animals and hundreds of other organisms they support, but also to the cultural, economic, and social fabric of our society. Sudden oak death (SOD) threatens to unhinge these systems, imperil biodiversity, create hazard trees or fuel for fires, and potentially infect agriculturally or horticulturally important plants. So whether it means adapting educational events to virtual spaces, delivering materials by mail, training online, answering home phones instead of staffing the Master Gardener desk, or collecting leaves for the SOD blitz by bicycle while wearing a mask and social distancing, the UCCE Sonoma SOD Program is not letting COVID-19 slow us down.
A key endeavor of this group is the yearly Sudden Oak Death Blitz in partnership with UC Berkeley's Forest Pathology and Mycology Lab. This state-wide citizen science project allows landowners to receive free testing of California bay laurel and tanoak leaves, contribute to long-term scientific research, and update the SOD Map Mobile app used by landowners and professionals to assess disease risk in their area. As SOD Blitz creator Dr. Matteo Garbelotto wrote in a letter addressed to all Californians about this year's program,
“The SOD Blitzes have become a tradition for many, while providing key information to help us save our oaks from a devastating disease.”
UCCE Sonoma hosts six blitz events annually whereas most counties hold just one, and we were eager to test new areas of tree mortality that were discovered after last-year's blitz had already passed. Here's how we made it work:
- Training took place online.
- Three Zoom sessions were set up with SOD team members for participant questions.
- Collection packets were mailed to most participants, and the rest picked up following strict safety guidelines supervised by staff.
- Leaves were collected at homes and on public land by walkers, cyclists, and others engaging in outdoor exercise.
- Kashia Pomo staff continued to sample on their land.
- In collaboration with SSU's Center for Environmental Inquiry, we hosted the only SOD blitz in the state that was fully bilingual in Spanish and English.
Despite limitations posed by COVID-19 regarding how to train volunteers, access areas where leaves could be sampled, and safely pass materials and samples between participants and blitz organizers, this year's campaign is on track to be even more successful than 2019. Returning leaves by mail instead of in-person allowed residents on the coast and other remote areas to participate easily, leading to a better geographic distribution of sampling. Online trainings and Q&A sessions, though less personal and lacking physical demonstrations, encouraged people with schedule constraints to give the blitz a try. One participant with extra time on his hands reported that he thought this was a great way to give back to the community in a time of need. Based on the number of participants and collection packets requested, we estimate a 15% increase in sampling from last year, including all major areas of Sonoma county and most of Mendocino county.
And things are just getting started. Though a SOD-themed Plant Walk with the local Milo Baker chapter of the California Native Plant Society was postponed, discussions are underway about creating a live virtual field trip in its place, complete with 360 degree photos of highlighted spots along the trail. Similarly, SOD Specialist Master Gardeners have been presenting at public library series' for years, and are now hoping to create a recorded version to be posted on UCCE Sonoma's Sudden Oak Death webpage. Check back for announcements on these and other happenings.
Our gratitude goes out to every volunteer who has invested their time in staying educated, spreading the word, and participating in citizen science with us over the years, especially during the current shelter-in-place, with special recognition for our dedicated team of SOD Specialist Master Gardeners. We couldn't help our oaks without you!