JOINT FIRE SCIENCE
Fire Hazard Reduction in Chaparral Using Prescribed Fire and Mastication
James Dawson, Bureau of Land Management
Scott Stephens, University of California Berkeley
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
University of California DANR Hopland Research and Extension Center
California chaparral is considered one of the most fire-dependent and flammable fuel types in the world. The 2003 Southern California wildfires demonstrated just how volatile this vegetation type can be, burning over 700,000 chaparral acres and tragically consuming 4,759 homes and structures. For decades, land managers have used prescribed fire and mechanical brush removal to reduce wildfire risk and severity near housing communities. However, as homes expand into undeveloped natural areas, the challenge of chaparral fire management becomes increasingly complex. Land managers are forced to accommodate social, political, economic and logistical interests in their fuel reduction planning. As a result, prescribed burns are often conducted outside of the historical fire season or replaced entirely by mechanical fuel removal. The ecological consequences of these management practices are largely unknown, but some experts fear that chaparral plant and wildlife composition may be permanently altered. The challenge for future chaparral management will be to balance human safety and ecological integrity in this unique ecosystem.
How Can This Project Help?
Currently in its third year, university researchers are examining the effects of fall, winter and spring prescribed fire and mastication (brush-shredding) in Northern California Coast Range chaparral. Specifically, this study focuses on post-fire and post-mastication recovery of shrubs, herbaceous plants, and migratory and resident bird communities. This research project is the only replicated prescribed fire and mastication study of its kind in the world, representing five fuel treatment type/season combinations with four replications each. To date, all twelve prescribed burns and eight mastication treatments have been successfully completed, accounting for over 100 acres of experimental area. Post-treatment monitoring has been ongoing since 2002 and is planned to continue through 2005.
Who Will Benefit?
This interagency research project has joined the University of
California with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Joint Fire Science
Program, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF),
California Fish and Game Commission, local FIRESAFE councils and
environmental advocacy groups. On
May 15, 2003, over 60 representatives from these agencies convened at
the DANR Hopland Research and Extension Center site to observe
preliminary results and provide valuable feedback.
Future workshops will continue to expand the audience and
disseminate updated project information. Self-guided
tours are currently available to the public, with permanent interpretive
displays (including maps, photos and project descriptions) that guide
visitors through a representative suite of research plots.
|UC Berkeley graduate student||Bureau of Land
Natural Resource Specialist (Fuels)
|UC Berkeley Assistant Professor|
Joint Fire Science Program
UC DANR Hopland Research and Extension Center