Fire and California Forests: California Agriculture reports on the present crisis

May 1, 2015

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Fire suppression and changing societal priorities have led to the predicament California faces today: Forests are overly dense and prone to catastrophic fire, the changing climate is likely to make both problems worse and forest managers have few tools to work with. Ironically, the hundreds of thousands of severely burned areas in the state's forests offer an opportunity to regrow a different type of forest. In the current issue of California Agriculture, the peer-reviewed journal of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), UC Cooperative Extension advisor Susan Kocher presents new approaches to forest restoration that acknowledge current realities and anticipate the changing climate.

Outlook: Californians must learn from the past and work together to meet the forest and fire challenges of the next century

The latest issue of California Agriculture is devoted entirely to forestry, starting with the editorial on 100 years of forestry at UC Berkeley by College of Natural Resources Dean Keith Gilless. Other articles are listed below.

Research news:

Fewer trees, more water, safer forests: The Sierra Nevada Watershed Ecosystem Enhancement Project is investigating how tree thinning — which is needed urgently in much of the Sierra Nevada due to long-term fire suppression — may increase the water yield from forested watersheds by as much as 10 percent. Monetizing this increased water yield, as well as other benefits from healthier forest ecosystems, could help fund forest management.

Forest thinning may increase water yield from the Sierra Nevada

Protecting oak woodlands: On California's North Coast, grassy oak woodlands are being invaded by stands of Douglas fir at an alarming rate. A UC ANR–led research team is working to understand the reasons why and guide efforts to reverse the trend.

Conifer encroachment study will inform efforts to preserve and restore North Coast oak woodlands

Peer-reviewed Research

Remote sensing: The powerful mapping capabilities of Lidar soon may be widely available to California forest managers as costs fall and the technology improves.

Mapping forests with Lidar provides flexible, accurate data with many uses

Maggi Kelly and Stefania Di Tommaso


Forest carbon: Private forests that are harvested and regenerated yield approximately 30 percent more carbon sequestration benefits than if they are left to grow.

Carbon calculator tracks the climate benefits of managed private forests

William C. Stewart and Benktesh D. Sharma


Forest management: A long-term study in the Sierra Nevada confirms the negative consequences of preferentially removing large trees.

Large-tree removal in a mixed-conifer forest halves productivity and increases white fir

Robert A. York


Post-fire ecology: Nearly 30 years after a burn at two sites in northeastern California, sagebrush had recovered fully and invasive grasses had diminished.

Post-fire vegetation dynamics of a sagebrush steppe community change significantly over time

Sara K. Hanna and Kenneth O. Fulgham


Community engagement: All sides of the Sierra Nevada forest management debate have learned from SNAMP. Can stakeholders help ensure research results are part of future management?

UC plays a crucial facilitating role in the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project

Adriana Sulak, Lynn Huntsinger and Susan D. Kocher


Ecosystem Restoration: A cooperative meadow restoration plan that successfully engaged a diverse group of stakeholders is a model for future projects.

Cooperative, cross-boundary management facilitates large-scale ecosystem restoration efforts

Erin Kelly and Jonathan Kusel


Community Fire Safety: The collaborative partnership has improved fire safety at the urban-wildland interface in fire-prone communities of Plumas, Butte and Yuba counties and stopped major wildfires.

UC Cooperative Extension works with fire safe councils to reduce wildfires

Glenn A. Nader and Michael De Lasaux


The entire California Agriculture issue can be downloaded at

California Agriculture is a peer-reviewed journal of research in agricultural, human and natural resources published by the University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. For a free subscription, visit, or write to


By Pamela Kan-Rice
Author - Assistant Director, News and Information Outreach