Scientists Are Trying to Make California Forests More Fire Resilient

Bloomberg News has a pretty good article today:

Scientists Are Trying to Make California Forests More Fire Resilient

As the threat of wildfire looms, a debate has emerged in the state about the best way to plant trees.

Some interesting photos, too.

As someone who helped with numerous timber sales on the El Dorado NF in the 1980s, and helped suppress a few wildfires there, I agree that broad landscapes of plantations of evenly spaced trees are far from natural, and in a changing climate, perhaps are a liability — unless they are managed to be more like natural stands, with groups of trees and spaces in between. That can be done with “industrial” plantations, if thinning aims to leave groups/skips/gaps rather than maintaining relatively uniform stem density. Of course, this is site-specific. In some areas, even-aged, production-oriented silviculture is appropriate, and in other areas, nature has created dense, even-aged stands on its own. In between, group planting may help guard against the incineration of entire watersheds. Here is where desired future conditions, with due recognition of likely future climate conditions, might best guide management.





1 thought on “Scientists Are Trying to Make California Forests More Fire Resilient”

  1. My headline would have been “humans disagree about how much planted trees should be clustered in the Sierra” : interesting quote..

    We need to move on from the right aesthetic,” he said. “Tackling climate change is the number one goal, so it’s important to plant forests that sequester carbon every year and allow us to replace more cement and steel.”

    But the problem with the idea that more trees means more carbon sequestration, North said, is that climate change and wildfire might not make it possible for as many to grow up and survive in the future. With resources limited, clustering saplings in places where water is likely to be available long-term, with wide gaps between them, may be the more climate-smart idea to try.

    “When I give talks on this, I try to ask, is there harm in trying this in a few places and seeing how it does?” he said. “And it blows me away that I can get very few people willing to try it. But then how do you ever learn?”

    “Jamahl Butler, the Forest Service’s acting deputy director for ecosystems management in California, said the agency uses many types of planting methods, and that disagreement is common. “It’s not a hard science where there’s one way to do things,” he said. “We adapt as we find out new things.”

    I’m pretty much with Butler on this..

    This is a classic problem.. we have no clue which will be best in reality (who knows if the climate will change so much that all the seedlings will die?) so different people make different assumptions. Then there’s another possibility.. start them to maximize growth and then thin to clumps based on what we know then. That would soak up most carbon right now, plus you would have whatever clumps you want designed with whatever you think is best at the time (20-30 years from now we’ll know a lot more about everything and we might even have markets for the material).

    Everyone’s experience is different and every site is different .and that’s a good thing about people trying different things and seeing how they work IMHO..


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