Big Sur oaks respond to fire mimcry

13 03 2017


Three years ago I began fire mimicry treatment on a grove of coast live oaks here in Big Sur. This is an area with serious oak decline problems, with many oaks having stem cankers (probably Sudden Oak Death). My crew and I did significant clearing and pruning of the oaks and fertilized the soils with compost tea and alkaline-rich minerals, and I performed stem canker surgeries on several of the oaks. The owner was adamant that we NOT apply a limewash to the trunks, due to the aesthetics of the white-trunk trees. The oaks were treated again in 2015 with compost tea and soil minerals.

Today I visited the oaks and re-photographed them. Here are the results. While most of the oaks showed a positive response, some did not. My sense is that limewashing the trunks would have given better results. Still, it is useful to see that clearing, pruning, compost tea, and soil minerals, without limewash, can benefit the oaks.


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Pine, oak, and ironwood trees in Big Sur responding nicely after a decade of fire mimicry

20 07 2016

What is fire mimicry?

pine B



Coast live oak in Big Sur cured of stem canker infection using fire mimicry + surgery

18 07 2016

This is exciting news! A coast live oak in Big Sur appears to have been cured of two stem canker infections (possibly Sudden Oak Death) using fire mimicry and surgical methods. Furthermore, no new infections have occurred on this tree. While I’ve reported on the progress of other coast live oaks that have received fire mimicry and surgery (see here, here, and here), this is the first oak that I feel confident has been cured of a stem canker infection!


There is also evidence at the same site that the deep cracks forming in other coast live oaks, cracks that allow infection by stem canker disease, are healing well. And, no new cracks are forming. Published studies have shown that “the presence of unweathered bark in bark furrows, (is) positively correlated with disease (Sudden Oak Death)”. Note in the photo below that the exposed unweathered bark is healing.

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Oak restoration at Esalen Institute

24 04 2016


This past Earth Day (April 22) I visited Esalen Institute in Big Sur and spoke on results of forest restoration using fire mimicry in California to the farm and garden staff. I also had the occasion to inspect and photograph several oaks that were treated with fire mimicry at an Earth Day event in 2012. These photos show pretty remarkable improvement in the canopy size and density of the oaks over the past four years, with one exception. The last oak in the photo sets below is in a very windy location. It has shown slight improvement over the years, but this year is exhibiting some browning of the leaves. I suspect this browning is a result of the very dry conditions in 2015. All of these oaks will receive another round of care this spring. Many thanks to the Esalen community for their support of this oak restoration effort!

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Acid rain in Big Sur – 2011-2012 season summary

3 02 2013
Big Sur Coast

Marine haze comprised largely of sulfate aerosols produced by ocean phytoplankton is a possible source of acidity in the rain in Big Sur. Photo by Lee Klinger.

I’ve been remiss in not posting this sooner. Here is the summary data for the  2011-2012 rain season in Big Sur. During the season we received a total of 25.49″ of rain, which is below the average of the previous four years (32.25”). The rainy season lasted for nearly 8 months, with the first rains arriving on October 4, 2011 and the last rains falling on May 27, 2012.

Rainfall from 29 events, totaling 25.13″, was measured for pH. The season volume-weighted average pH was 4.91 ± 0.16. This mean pH was higher than the average of the previous seasons (mean volume weighted pH 2007-2011 = 4.77).

Season length: October 4, 2011 to May 27, 2012

Total rainfall: 25.49″

Rainfall from 29 measured events: 25.13″

Mean volume-weighted pH (± s.d.): 4.91 ± 0.16

For summaries of previous years see “Acid rain in Big Sur 2010-2011 season summary“, “Acid rain in Big Sur 2009-2010 season summary”, and “Acid rain in Big Sur”.

The graph below shows the mean volume-weighted pH values recorded from Big Sur for the past 5 rain years, along with the mean volume-weighted pH values reported from six National Acid Deposition Program (NADP) sites along the Pacific coast, from southern California (Tanbark) to southeast Alaska (Juneau). Note that the NADP sites have data only through the 2010-2011 rain year. Data for the most recent rain year are not yet available from NADP.

2012 rain pH

Mean volume-weighted pH values of precipitation at six NADP sites and at Big Sur

This graph shows that the rainfall pH readings from Big Sur are significantly lower than those at the NADP sites near the Pacific coast. As I mentioned in last year’s summary, some of this difference is possibly due to the fact that the NADP sites report “lab pH” and the Big Sur readings are “field pH”. Typically the “lab pH” readings are higher (less acidic) than “field pH”. Another reason is that the Big Sur station is significantly closer to the Pacific Ocean than the NADP sites. If the Pacific Ocean is the source of much of the acidity, as I suspect, then the lower readings at Big Sur could be due to the closer proximity to the source of acidity.

Acid rain in Big Sur – December 2011

21 01 2012

Marine haze in Big Sur. Photo by Lee Klinger.

December 2011 was a dry month. I recorded only two precipitation events totaling 0.75″ of rain. Only one event provided an amount that could be measured for pH. That occurred on December 12 with a pH of 4.67, which is close to the mean pH of the 2010-2011 rainy season (pH = 4.66). See the table below for the December 2011 data:

Rainfall amount and pH recorded in Big Sur for December 2011

During the warm sunny days of December a thick marine haze developed that engulfed the region for many weeks (see photo above). This haze has been shown on other studies to be comprised largely of sulfate and organic aerosols, the precursors to biogenic (i.e. natural) acid rain.

Acid rain in Big Sur – November 2011

30 12 2011

Sunset at rain pH station in Big Sur. Photo by Lee Klinger.

After some respite in the acidity in October, the rain pH in Big Sur has returned to more typical acidic levels this past November. There were six rainfall events in November 2011, totaling 3.31″. Rainfall pH values ranged from 4.64 to 4.94 in November, considerably more acidic than the previous month which saw rainfall pH’s as high as 5.13. Below are the data for November: Read the rest of this entry »