Video recording of “Forest restoration theory and practice based on Indigenous cultural tending”

17 11 2020

Here a Youtube video of my recent lecture and discussion in the course FORESTS, hosted by the Humanities Center of Texas Tech University. Many thanks to Bruce Clarke and Michael Borshuk for facilitating this talk!





Upcoming zoom lecture (Thursday, Nov. 12) – “Forest restoration theory and practice based on Indigenous cultural tending”

7 11 2020

This Thursday, November 12, (5:30 pm Pacific Time) I will be conducting a zoom lecture and discussion for the online course FORESTS, hosted by Texas Tech University, on the topic of “Forest Restoration Theory and Practice Based on Indigenous Cultural Tending”. The points I will be addressing are: Gaia theory, ecological succession, fire ecology of California, evidence of cultural modification of trees and landscapes, and approaches to forest restoration. The lecture is open to all, just be sure to register beforehand. Follow the embedded link to register.





Tom “Little Bear” Nason, Esselen Elder, on the history of fire management in Big Sur

20 09 2020

I live on Esselen tribal land. The name “Esselen” is derived from the word Ex’xien, or “the rock”, assumed by many to be Point Sur (pictured above). Several years ago I met an Esselen tribal elder named Little Bear at a meeting of the Four Winds Council in Big Sur, CA. I have since joined him in sweat lodge ceremonies and jaunts into sacred redwood groves. His perspectives have fascinated me over the years I have known him.

With his permission I am reposting below a recent series of photos and commentaries by Little Bear on the history of land management here in Big Sur. Please pay attention!

Tom “Little Bear” Nason, September 20, 2020:

“My Great Grandfather Fred P Nason with guests in Pine Valley, Los Padres National Forest in 1940s. Our family has lived, loved and shared this sacred lands for over many generations and we always will forever.Our family has been practicing traditional native indigenous Esselen tribal burning of this valley up until 1970s. Government said STOP BURNING!! My Forefathers all told them that by ordering ceasing off these lands it would begin a dangerous situation by allowing the brush and scrub to grow out control and the forests would become choked off and when a natural force like lighting comes it would cause the lower brush to burn at high heat and kill the trees. In this photo you see many big ponderosa pine trees and open meadows surrounding them. As Natives of this lands we knew how to manage our lands and the forests. Since 1940s, we’ve had many wildfires come thru the Santa Lucia Mountains and some were good for the land and most have been extremely damaging. I will start posting more pictures and stories about how my family and tribe have seen our beloved and sacred places here in Big Sur changing so much due to imbalance and the deep sadness for losing so many of the old trees. We need change and it’s very challenging for all us to live with so many fires so frequently!! Prayers and Respect to all who listen to Mother Nature🙏🏽🌀🌏🌲🐻🙏🏽 Tom Little Bear Nason September 20th, 2020 Last Day of Summer🌞 Praying for Early Rains🌧

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California’s big trees tell a story of overcrowding …

17 08 2020

I recently went on a several week journey to further investigate the big trees of California. Within the past month I have visited Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Forest, Sierra National Forest, Redwood National Park, and various northern California state parks. Simply put, there is an overcrowding problem, but not of tourists.

IMG_0933

Above is a giant sequoia surrounded by dozens of younger trees, all of which are competing for the same resources as this ancient tree, In previous centuries, these younger trees would have been removed by fires set by the local California natives.

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Fallen giant sequoias from paludification, along with over competition.

IMG_0987 Read the rest of this entry »





Lovelock Centenary talk by Lee Klinger recorded on July 31, 2019

7 09 2019

Here is my presentation “Indigenous-based forest management: Looking to the past for a way forward” at the recent Lovelock Centenary conference at the University of Exeter, UK

My talk begins at 59:38 and ends at 117:00. Enjoy!

 





Living with fire: The fire ecology of the Central Coast

28 11 2018

On Thursday, December 6, 2018 I’ll be presenting and discussing the fire ecology of the Central Coast at the Santa Cruz Public Library (224 Church St.) starting at 6:30 pm. Topics will include the California native people’s use of fire in land management, modern fire regimes, fire mimicry, and the role of climate change. For more information on this free event see: https://www.santacruzpl.org/news/permalink/793/

Big Sur 2008 fire





Fire mimicry reverses decline in coast redwoods

30 09 2018

Slide12

As I’ve discussed  previously (here), coast redwoods in many areas are showing symptoms of dieback, typically beginning towards the top and progressing downward. Drought and disease have been implicated in the redwood decline, but the true cause remains elusive. I suspect the decline is ultimately related to the altered fire ecology.

In October 2016 I applied fire mimicry treatments to a grove of coast redwoods in Alamo, CA that were in decline. Here are the results after two years.

Slide11 Read the rest of this entry »





Sudden Oak Life talk and discussion on October 13, 2018

21 09 2018

For those of you interested in learning more about an ecological vs. pathological approach to Sudden Oak Death, please attend my talk and discussion on Saturday, October 13, 2018, 10 – 12 noon at Lyngso Garden Materials, San Carlos, CA. The talk is free but you must register at:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sudden-oak-life-registration-50423488010

Slide3





Do lichens play a role in oak decline?

20 07 2018

Lichens in tree

(image downloaded from web June 2013)

Any careful observer of oaks in California cannot help but notice a dense covering of lichens growing on the trunks and branches of many of the trees. In some cases, the biomass of lichens in the canopy rivals and even exceeds the biomass of the oak foliage. Under extreme conditions of lichen cover, the oaks appear sickly and in decline.

Lichens in oak

Coast live oaks covered in epiphytic Usnea and Ramalina lichens. (February 2018, Aptos, CA)

There is a popular meme in naturalist and conservation circles that lichens do not harm trees and merely use them for support. Adherents to this ‘harmless lichen’ meme point out that lichens are photosynthetic and, thus, do not draw any resources from the trees. Some note that lichens support nitrogen-fixing bacteria, which can add to the nutrient pool and benefit the trees. Furthermore, lichens are known to be highly sensitive to air pollution, so the presence of abundant lichens in a tree is a sign of good local air quality.

I have long been doubtful about the science behind this meme. As an experienced researcher of forest decline I have frequently noted that sick and dying trees often have a dense growth of lichens in their canopies. Defenders of the ‘harmless lichen’ meme describe this as the opportunistic growth of lichens on sick trees, as the reduced foliage allows for additional light for the lichens to grow. It is certainly true that lichens benefit from sick trees in this way, but I believe that lichens are not merely innocent bystanders or benefactors in the demise of a tree. Read the rest of this entry »





Fire mimicry treatments likely saved homes and oak groves from Sonoma wildfires

15 11 2017

Sonoma fire 3

Compare untreated oaks in the background (right) with oaks in the foreground (left) treated with fire mimicry.

In 2009 I was contacted by a property owner who had just purchased a home and several acres of oak forest near the town of Sonoma, CA. The forest had been neglected for many years and was in poor health. There was also a dense growth of underbrush around the trees and many dead limbs on the oaks. I provided him a fire mimicry treatment plan that involved clearing of the underbrush and pruning the oaks, focusing on removing the ladder fuels near the ground. I also proposed to fertilize the oaks with alkaline-rich soil minerals, removed mosses and lichens from the trunks, and applied limewash.

The owner agreed to this plan and during the next couple years I and several colleagues spent many weeks clearing brush, pruning limbs, burning brush piles, and fertilizing a large grove of more than 50 valley oak, blue oak, and coast live oak trees.

Afterwards, in 2015, another property owner in Glen Ellen, CA contracted with me to care for her oaks with fire mimicry. This grove of about 30 oaks was treated in the same manner as described above.

Both of these properties were impacted by the recent wildfires in Sonoma.  Yesterday I visited these properties and I’m pleased to report that they sustained very little permanent damage. No structures were lost and nearly all of the oak trees appear to have survived. I estimate that the survival rate of trees on both properties is about 98%, although it will be another year or so before we know the exact percentage.

With regards to the first property, the photos here show that the fire burned the adjacent forest severely, with a complete loss of the forest canopy in places. However, once the fires reached the areas treated with fire mimicry, the severity lessened and fire stayed on the ground. None of the trees in the treated areas experienced a canopy fire. The boundary between the treated and untreated trees, showing this difference in fire severity, can be seen in the above and below photos.

I should add that while this home did not burn, four nearby homes were completely destroyed.

The second property also had no loss of structures and only minor damage to the oaks (see last photo below). The fire did not spread into the canopies and all of the affected oaks will likely recover.

With regards to the “cause” of these severe wildfires, some focus on the source of the initial spark, such as a downed power line or arson. Others point the finger at climate change affecting the health of the forests.

My take, based on the results shown here and elsewhere in the scientific literature, is that the cause of the severe wildfires is due to the suppression of fires and lack of management of the forests. Historically, oak forests were regularly burned by the California native people to enhance the health of the oak savanna ecosystem. Under a frequent burning regime the fires tended to be ground fires, which rejuvenate the soils but do not damage the tree canopies. Without these traditional management practices, our oak forests have become overgrown and stressed. Now-a-days, when fires do burn, they tend to be destructive canopy fires, rather than rejuvenating ground fires.

The oak forests and homes on these properties were saved in spite of adjacent ignition sources from raging fires. Nor did we change the climate. We simply went in ahead of time and mimicked wildfire in these areas. It is clear to me from this and other studies that proper forest management is fundamental in solving the wildfire problem in California.

Sonoma fire 12

Fence line of property separating burned/untreated oak forests (right) and unburned/treated oak forests (left).

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