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Approximation of Fire-Return Intervals with Point Samples in the Southern Range of the Coast Redwood Forest, California, USA
Fire Ecology (2015)
  • Gregory A. Jones, National Park Service
  • Will Russell, San Jose State University
A legacy of past fires is evident in the form of blackened basal hollows found throughout the southern range of the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens [D. Don] Endl.) forest.  A deeper look reveals cambial scars dating back centuries, telling a story of low- to moderate-intensity fires that burned periodically across California’s Central Coast bioregion.  While attempts have been made to reconstruct the fire history of this forest type, estimates of the fire-return interval vary widely, and the relationship of the fire-return interval to varying cultural influences is not fully understood.  We analyzed 373 fire scars from 70 cross-sections removed from stumps, downed logs, and live trees in the coastal Santa Cruz Mountains of California, USA, in order to estimate fire-return intervals (FRI) for individual trees, mean FRI across samples, and seasonality of historical fires.  The mean FRI, averaged across point samples, was 60.6 yr with a median of 40.1 yr.  Fire scars were most prevalent in the dormant and latewood portions of annual growth rings.  A sub-sample of 19 cross-sections, for which we were able to determine approximate fire years, exhibited a high degree of variation between samples with individual tree FRIs ranging from 10.4 yr to 128 yr.  The mean FRI of 43.3 yr was marginally higher for the pre-settlement period (1352 to 1849) compared to 30.7 yr for the settlement period (1850 to 1924) and 32.3 yr for the recent period (1925 to 2013).  While our results suggest a longer estimate of fire-return intervals than previously documented for this forest type, high variation within and between samples clouded distinctions and illustrates a culturally constructed fire regime characterized by temporal and spatial heterogeneity.
Publication Date
Publisher Statement
This article was originally published in Fire Ecology, 11, 3, 2015. It can be found online at this link.
Citation Information
Gregory A. Jones and Will Russell. "Approximation of Fire-Return Intervals with Point Samples in the Southern Range of the Coast Redwood Forest, California, USA" Fire Ecology Vol. 11 Iss. 3 (2015) p. 80 - 94
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