Fire Mimicry Step 1 – Clearing, thinning, and pruning

27 05 2020


The iconic oak woodlands of California are the result of thousands of years of tending by the various native tribes. They put fire to the land regularly, in places every year or two, to create open, park-like conditions under which the oaks and other keystone species could thrive. As the native people were forced from their lands by western settlers the healthy ground fires that sustained the oaks ended. Now our oak woodlands have become overgrown by shrubs and small trees, and dead wood has piled up on the forest floor. The soils have become acidified and mosses and lichens have built up to unhealthy levels.

While cultural burning is still happening in a few places, most of the oak woodlands can no longer be burned due to the heavy buildup of fuel. The only hope to save these ecosystems is to introduce fire mimicry.

These past few days I have been implementing the first steps of fire mimicry on an ancient Ohlone Costanoan oak woodland in Aptos, California. This involves clearing most of the woody understory (including literally tons of poison oak), thinning young trees, removing dead and dying trees, and pruning the lower branches of the mature oaks. These photos show the progress after only two days of work with a hardy crew of four. We also started to amend the soils with compost tea and alkaline-rich fertilizers, and apply a limewash to trunks to control the mosses and lichens. Stay tuned …















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