Fire in California’s Ecosystems

Fire in California’s Ecosystems

NEIL G. SUGIHARA
JAN W. VAN WAGTENDONK
KEVIN EUGENE SHAFFER
JOANN FITES-KAUFMAN
ANDREA E. THODE
Foreword by James K. Agee
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 612
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnb25
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  • Book Info
    Fire in California’s Ecosystems
    Book Description:

    Fire is both an integral natural process in the California landscape and growing threat to its urban and suburban developments as they encroach on wildlands. Written by many of the foremost authorities on the subject, this comprehensive volume, an ideal text and authoritative reference tool, is the first to synthesize our knowledge of the science, ecology, and management of fire in California. Part I introduces the basics of fire ecology. It includes an historical overview of fire, vegetation, and climate in California; overviews of fire as a physical and ecological process; and reviews the interactions between fire and the physical, plant, and animal components of the environment. Part II explores the history and ecology of fire in each of California's nine bioregions. Part III examines fire management in California, including both Native American and post-European settlement; discusses current issues related to fire policy and management, including air quality, watershed management, invasive plant species, native species, and fuel management; and considers the future of fire management.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93227-2
    Subjects: Botany & Plant Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    James K. Agee

    Fire was finally recognized as an important ecological factor in the mid-twentieth century in Rexford Daubenmire’sPlants and Environment.Before then, it had largely been considered an allogenic factor even by ecologists such as Fredric Clements, who had done some of the first work on fire-dependent lodgepole pine in the Rocky Mountains. The volume you have in your hand is the most comprehensive work ever on a state’s fire ecology, and demonstrates tremendous progress in understanding the role of fire in California wildlands. Although the destructive fires of southern California in 2003 have captured the headlines at the time of...

  5. PREFACE
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Fire and California Vegetation
    (pp. 1-10)
    NEIL G. SUGIHARA and MICHAEL G. BARBOUR

    During the last decades of the twentieth century and early years of the twenty-first century, fire ecology has emerged as a rapidly expanding area of study. Since the first article on fire ecology appeared inScientific Americanin 1961 (Cooper 1961), several books have been published on the subject (Kozlowski and Ahlgren 1974, Wright and Bailey 1982, Agee 1993, Whalen 1995, Arno and Allison-Bunnel 2002). However, no book has been published that focuses specifically on the ecological role of fire in California. Wildland fire is a complex, dynamic, and often spectacular force that plays a richly complex role in California’s...

  7. PART I Introduction to Fire Ecology
    • CHAPTER 2 California Climate and Fire Weather
      (pp. 13-37)
      RICHARD A. MINNICH

      To understand fire as a natural process in California ecosystems, it is necessary to evaluate how climate (average and predictable weather properties over long time scales) contributes to vegetation flammability, and how short-term weather influences the propagation of flame lines (fire weather). The flammability of vegetation can be envisioned as a “tug of war” between the organic energy of plants (carbohydrate) as a heat source, and plant water vital for transport of nutrients and leaf transpiration as a heat sink. Fires occur when fuel energy exceeds the heat capacity of water—that is, the carbohydrate-to-water energy ratio in vegetation is...

    • CHAPTER 3 Fire as a Physical Process
      (pp. 38-57)
      JAN W. VAN WAGTENDONK

      In many California ecosystems, the process of decomposition is too slow to completely oxidize accumulated organic material, and another process, such as fire, steps in to perform that role. The mediterranean climate in California, with its hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters, is not conducive to decomposition. When it is warm enough for decomposer organisms to be active, it’s too dry. Conversely, when it’s wet enough, it’s too cold. As a result, decomposition is unable to keep up with the deposited material, and organic debris begins to accumulate. This debris becomes fuel available for the inevitable fire that will...

    • CHAPTER 4 Fire as an Ecological Process
      (pp. 58-74)
      NEIL G. SUGIHARA, JAN W. VAN WAGTENDONK and JOANN FITES-KAUFMAN

      Fire is an integral part of California ecosystems; for without fire, few of the state’s native ecosystems, habitats, or even species, would persist as we know them today. Fire’s dynamic nature and great complexity are amplified by the state’s diverse topography, climate, and vegetation. For millennia, California ecosystems have developed in tandem with fire.

      Long-term alterations of fire patterns have occurred with climatic changes and with interactions with humans. In the past two centuries, the pace of human-induced alteration has accelerated, resulting in a number of changes in species and ecosystems. Many of these species and ecosystem changes occurred previously,...

    • CHAPTER 5 Fire and Physical Environment Interactions: Soil, Water, and Air
      (pp. 75-93)
      PETER M. WOHLGEMUTH, KEN HUBBERT and MICHAEL J. ARBAUGH

      Interactions of fire with soil, water, and air play an important role in the ecology of forests, brushfields, and grasslands throughout California. Soil is a primary factor in site productivity, and the effects of burning can both enhance and degrade soil quality. Water is especially sensitive to upland environmental changes and is an excellent indicator of ecosystem condition. Fire affects water quantity and water quality both for aquatic and riparian ecosystems and for downstream human consumption. Fire impacts air quality by degrading aesthetic vistas and potentially redistributing airborne pollutants. It can combine with urban-generated air pollution to affect both forests...

    • CHAPTER 6 Fire and Plant Interactions
      (pp. 94-117)
      JOANN FITES-KAUFMAN, ANNE F. BRADLEY and AMY G. MERRILL

      Charcoal records show that fire has been present in California for millions of years (Weide 1968, Keeley and Rundel 2003), creating a long history of fire interacting with plants. In an ecological context, fire is neither “good” nor “bad” for biota—it is an integral part of the ecological process in most plant communities of California (see Part II). Many plants in California have characteristics that enable them to survive—and even thrive—in response to fire and in particular fire regimes.

      Fire’s effects on plants result from the interaction between fire’s chemical and physical properties and characteristics of the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Fire and Animal Interactions
      (pp. 118-144)
      KEVIN E. SHAFFER and WILLIAM F. LAUDENSLAYER JR.

      The previous chapter addressed the effects of fire on individual plants, plant populations, and plant communities. As with plants, fire affects animals at the individual, population, and community levels. Effects on animals include direct mortality, changes in animal physiology and behavior, shifts or displacements in animal populations and communities, and immediate and longer-term alterations to habitat structure, composition, and function. In this chapter we explore how fire affects: (1) animals that inhabit different habitats; (2) terrestrial and aquatic animal populations and communities; and (3) animal habitat structure, composition, and function.

      The study of animal–fire interactions has historically been focused...

  8. PART II The History and Ecology of Fire in California’s Bioregions
    • CHAPTER 8 North Coast Bioregion
      (pp. 147-169)
      JOHN D. STUART and SCOTT L. STEPHENS

      The North Coast California bioregion is classified as being within the California Coastal Steppe, Mixed Forest, and Redwood Forest Province of the Mediterranean Division of the Humid Temperate Domain (Bailey 1995). Specifically, it is composed of the Northern California Coast and the Northern California Coast Ranges Sections (Map 8.1) (Miles and Goudey 1997). The bioregion ranges from southwestern Oregon to north of the Golden Gate in Marin County. Its eastern boundary is adjacent to the Klamath Mountains in the north and the Northern California Interior Coast Ranges in the central and southern portions. The North Coast section stretches from San...

    • CHAPTER 9 Klamath Mountains Bioregion
      (pp. 170-194)
      CARL N. SKINNER, ALAN H. TAYLOR and JAMES K. AGEE

      The Klamath Mountains bioregion makes up a major portion of northwestern California continuing into southwestern Oregon to near Roseburg. In California, the bioregion lies primarily between the Northern California Coast bioregion on the west and the southern Cascade Range to the east. The southern boundary is made up of the Northern California Coast Ranges and Northern California Interior Coast Ranges (Miles and Goudey 1997). The very steep and complex terrain of the Klamath Mountains covers approximately 22,500 km² (8,690 mi²), or 6% of California. The bioregion includes the Klamath and Trinity River systems, the headwaters of the Sacramento River, the...

    • CHAPTER 10 Southern Cascades Bioregion
      (pp. 195-224)
      CARL N. SKINNER and ALAN H. TAYLOR

      The Cascade Range extends from British Columbia, Canada, south to northern California where it meets the Sierra Nevada. The Southern Cascades bioregion in California is bounded on the west by the Sacramento Valley and the Klamath Mountains, and on the east by the Modoc Plateau and Great Basin. The bioregion encompasses the Southern Cascades section of Miles and Goudey (1997) and covers approximately 4% (16,740 km² [6,460 mi²]) of the area of California. Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen are located in this bioregion.

      The Cascades are geologically young and characterized by prominent volcanic peaks (some recently active) that stand above...

    • CHAPTER 11 Northeastern Plateaus Bioregion
      (pp. 225-263)
      GREGG M. RIEGEL, RICHARD F. MILLER, CARL N. SKINNER and SYDNEY E. SMITH

      Northeastern California landscape is a mixture of vast arid basins and uplands, and forested mountain ranges interspersed with both fresh water and alkaline wetlands. The entire bioregion is significantly influenced by the rain shadow effect of the Cascade Range to the west. Three ecological unit subsections are treated in this chapter: (1) Modoc Plateau Section (M261G), (2) northwestern Basin and Range Section (342B), and (3) extreme northern portion of the Mono Section (341Dk). The Cascade Range defines the western edge of the Modoc Plateau, and the Sierra Nevada defines the western boundary for the southern portion of the northwestern Basin...

    • CHAPTER 12 Sierra Nevada Bioregion
      (pp. 264-294)
      JAN W. VAN WAGTENDONK and JO ANN FITES-KAUFMAN

      The Sierra Nevada is one of the most striking features of the state of California, extending from the southern Cascade Mountains in the north to the Tehachapi Mountains and Mojave Desert 700 km (435 mi) to the south (Map 12.1). The Central Valley forms the western boundary of the Sierra Nevada bioregion, and the Great Basin is on the east. The bioregion includes the central mountains and foothills as described by the Sierra Nevada Section and the Sierra Nevada Foothills Section of Miles and Goudey (1997). The area of the bioregion is 69,560 km² (26,442 mi²), approximately 17% of the...

    • CHAPTER 13 Central Valley Bioregion
      (pp. 295-320)
      ROBIN WILLS

      The Central Valley creates one of the most important defining physical features of the California landscape. Lying between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Ranges, this massive valley is nearly 800 km (500 mi) long and up to 120 km (75 mi) across (Map 13.1). More than 15% of the state’s total area is included within its boundaries. Although still one of the most spectacular elements of California’s geography, this bioregion is among the state’s most highly impacted. A long history of significant alteration has resulted in a landscape with little resemblance to its presettlement past. The valley once supported...

    • CHAPTER 14 Central Coast Bioregion
      (pp. 321-349)
      FRANK W. DAVIS and MARK I. BORCHERT

      The Central Coast bioregion includes the Central California Coast and Central California Coast Ranges Sections (Map 14.1) (Miles and Goudey 1997) in the California Coastal Chaparral Forest and Shrub Province of the Mediterranean Division of the Humid Temperate Domain (Bailey 1995). The bioregion extends from Napa County south to northern Santa Barbara County, altogether covering 38,830 km² (14,992 mi²). The eastern boundary of the bioregion adjoins the western edge of the San Joaquin Valley. Familiar coastal landmarks include San Francisco Bay, Monterey Bay, Big Sur, and Morro Bay. Notable interior landmarks include Mt. Diablo, San Benito Mountain, and the Carrizo...

    • CHAPTER 15 South Coast Bioregion
      (pp. 350-390)
      JON E. KEELEY

      The South Coast bioregion includes the Southern California Coast and the Mountains and Valleys sections as defined by Miles and Goudey (1997). The region is bordered on the north by the Transverse Ranges, on the south by the U.S. border with Mexico, on the east by the Peninsular Ranges, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean (Map. 15.1). The Transverse and northern Peninsular ranges bound the Los Angeles Basin, an extensive floodplain comprising millions of years of alluvial outwash deposited by the Los Angeles, San Gabriel, and Santa Ana rivers. Minor mountain ranges occur within the basin, including the...

    • CHAPTER 16 Southeastern Deserts Bioregion
      (pp. 391-414)
      MATTHEW L. BROOKS and RICHARD A. MINNICH

      The southeastern deserts bioregion (desert bioregion) occupies the southeastern 27% of California (110,283 km² or 27,251,610 ac) (Miles and Goudy 1997) (Map 16.1). The desert bioregion is within the basin and range geomorphic province of western North America, and includes two ecoregional provinces comprised of five ecological sections. The American Semi-Desert and Desert Province (hot-desert province) includes the Mojave Desert, Sonoran Desert, and Colorado Desert sections in the southern 83% of the desert bioregion (Table 16.1). The Intermountain Semi-Desert Province (cold-desert province) includes the Southeastern Great Basin and Mono sections in the northern 17% of the desert bioregion.

      The geomorphology...

  9. PART III Fire Management Issues in California’s Ecosystems
    • CHAPTER 17 The Use of Fire by Native Americans in California
      (pp. 417-430)
      M. KAT ANDERSON

      The use of fire as a land management tool in human history has been universal. Setting fires to influence vegetation patterns was one of the most portent achievements of the human species; it literally shifted our status from that of foragers to true cultivators of nature (Lewis and Anderson 2002). The use of fire byHomo erectusmay be more than 400,000 years old (Weiner et al. 1998). Indigenous use of fire is an important dimension of human evolution, enabling our species to move around the world and occupy higher latitudes and elevations, thriving in extremely cold environments. From about...

    • CHAPTER 18 Fire Management and Policy Since European Settlement
      (pp. 431-443)
      SCOTT L. STEPHENS and NEIL G. SUGIHARA

      Since European explorers first touched the shores of California, their activities, shaped by their needs and values, have changed the state’s fire regimes. Fire regime changes have resulted, directly and indirectly, from a variety of human activities. At times, these influences have been unintentional consequences of other land management activities; in other instances, they have been well planned and even codified. All of the activities that have affected fire regimes are considered here as firemanagement,but only those that have been intentionally and formally adopted by society are considered firepolicies.

      Formal fire policy since European settlement is a...

    • CHAPTER 19 Fire and Fuel Management
      (pp. 444-465)
      SUE HUSARI, H. THOMAS NICHOLS, NEIL G. SUGIHARA and SCOTT L. STEPHENS

      The complex set of tasks we now characterize asfire managementevolved from the single-minded pursuit of fire control. The management of wildland fuel has become one of the more important aspects of fire management (Biswell 1989, Carle 2002). In the last 20 years, fuel management has come to play a leading role in managing ecosystems and natural resources. Scientists and managers have improved their shared understanding of the importance of natural processes in ecosystem function. Attempts to exclude fire events merely delay, alter, and intensify subsequent fires. The build-up of fuel in some California ecosystems has contributed to the...

    • CHAPTER 20 Fire, Watershed Resources, and Aquatic Ecosystems
      (pp. 466-480)
      ANDREA E. THODE, JEFFREY L. KERSHNER, KEN ROBY, LYNN M. DECKER and JAN L. BEYERS

      Fire is a major process within many California watersheds causing natural fluctuations of water, nutrients, and sediment that are transmitted through aquatic ecosystems. Historic fire regimes and other watershed processes have shifted and changed with anthropogenic disturbances. In addition, more homes and communities are being located along streams and in floodplains. These changes cause social and ecological issues to arise concerning fire as a process within watersheds. This chapter first examines the current perspective of fires in watersheds and the social and ecological reactions to changes in the historic fire regimes. It then discusses issues surrounding the restoration of fire...

    • CHAPTER 21 Fire and Air Resources
      (pp. 481-498)
      SURAJ AHUJA

      Fire is an important part of California ecosystems, but it also produces combustion byproducts that are potentially harmful to human health and welfare. A challenge of managing wildland fire is balancing public interest objectives while still sustaining ecological integrity. Minimizing adverse effects of smoke on human health and welfare, while maximizing the effectiveness of using wildland fire, will need to become an integrated and collaborative activity. Awareness of air quality regulations, smoke production, transport, and effects from prescribed and wildland fires will enable land managers to refine existing smoke management strategies and develop better smoke management plans and programs in...

    • CHAPTER 22 Fire and Invasive Plant Species
      (pp. 499-519)
      ROBERT C. KLINGER, MATTHEW L. BROOKS and JOHN M. RANDALL

      One of the most significant issues in conservation is the effect of invasive species on natural communities and ecosystems. Conservation scientists generally agree that only habitat destruction poses a greater threat to native biological diversity and the integrity of ecosystems (Wilcove et al. 1998, Mack et al. 2000). Invasive species can have impacts on populations of individual species as well as entire communities (Vitousek et al. 1996, Lonsadale 1999). In recent years, their impact on ecosystem processes, including fire regimes, has been increasingly well documented (Mack and D’Antonio 1998, Mack et al. 2001). Although these impacts are varied and sometimes...

    • CHAPTER 23 Fire and At-Risk Species
      (pp. 520-537)
      KEVIN E. SHAFFER

      Previous chapters have described the essential ecological function of fire and society’s struggle to control and manage it. As described in Chapter 18, modern-era management of fire commenced at the turn of the nineteenth century, and even the issue of wildland fire burning at the urban interface has been part of the California landscape since the 1920s. The middle of the twentieth century not only represented a growing attention to fire management and the use of fire, but also society’s growing attention to the welfare of animals and plants. In the 1960s, federal protection was afforded to laboratory animals, and...

    • CHAPTER 24 The Future of Fire in California’s Ecosystems
      (pp. 538-544)
      NEIL G. SUGIHARA, JAN W. VAN WAGTENDONK, JOANN FITES-KAUFMAN, KEVIN E. SHAFFER and ANDREA E. THODE

      This book has covered a wide array of topics that are unified by wildland fire. In this concluding chapter, we take the opportunity to summarize the three parts of the book, focussing on some of the most important overarching concepts. We then address where the future is likely to lead us and end with a challenge for managing and living with fire in California.

      The vegetation in California is a product of its evolutionary past, current and past climates, topography, and fire. From the dense, moist forests of the North Coast to the grasslands of the Central Valley to the...

  10. APPENDIX 1: Plant Common and Scientific Names
    (pp. 545-564)
  11. APPENDIX 2: Animal Common and Scientific Names
    (pp. 565-567)
  12. APPENDIX 3: Bioregions, Ecological Zones, and Plant Alliances of California That Occur in This Text
    (pp. 568-578)
  13. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 579-582)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 583-596)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 597-597)