Culturally-modified Indian-era oaks respond to fire mimicry

15 11 2019

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Five years ago I began fire mimicry treatments on a grove of ancient, Indian-era coast live oaks that have clear signs of being culturally modified (ie. pollarded). This past week I checked on the status of these oaks and the entire grove continues to show strong improvement in canopy density and greenness. And in an area of rapidly spreading Sudden Oak Death, none of these trees have contracted this disease.

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Ancient oaks on Big Sur respond to fire mimicry

12 11 2019

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Last year I began fire mimicry treatments on a large grove of ancient coast live oaks in Big Sur. Many of these oaks were culturally modified several hundred years ago by the Esselen Indians. Several of the largest oaks have clear signs of being pollarded, as shown in the photo below.

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Culturally modified coast live oak in Big Sur, CA.

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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!

 





Invited talk – “Indigenous-based forest management: Looking to the past for a way forward”

23 07 2019

UPDATE: Here is the video of my talk – https://suddenoaklifeorg.wordpress.com/2019/09/07/lovelock-centenary-talk-by-lee-klinger-recorded-on-july-31-2019/

I am heading to England soon to attend and speak at the Lovelock Centenary (July 29-31), a meeting of Gaian scientists sponsored by the Geological Society of London and the University of Exeter, and inspired by the 100th birthday of James Lovelock, who developed the theory that the earth is a living system (Gaia). James Lovelock will happily be attending and speaking at the conference.

I first met James Lovelock in 1988 at an American Geophysical Union meeting in San Diego, CA hosted by my postdoctoral advisor Stephen Schneider. I presented results that supported Lovelock’s contention that “Gaia likes it cold”, as discussed in Lovelock’s book The Ages of Gaia.

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James Lovelock

After attending the “Gaia in Oxford” meetings in the 1990s I worked with James Lovelock and Susan Canney (University of Oxford) to help found the Gaia Society, which later became the Gaia: Earth System Science specialty group of the Geological Society of London.

My talk at the upcoming meeting will focus on the topic of Applied Gaia, which, as the name implies, is the application of Gaia theory to solving real world problems. I will be speaking on the ways in which indigenous cultures can inform us on how to improve our forest management in California. Dr Susan Canney will follow up with a talk on her successful work applying Gaia theory to elephant conservation in western Africa. The conference program is listed here.

The entire conference will be lived streamed and I encourage you to watch, as there are few chances to see this many Gaian scientists speaking in one setting.

Lovelock Centenary talk final





Esalen oaks respond to fire mimicry

26 04 2019

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On April 20, 2012 I gave an Earth Day workshop on at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, where I initiated fire mimicry treatments on several coast live oaks. Since then I have been tending these oaks on a regular basis. Today I inspected the oaks and treated them again. The photos (above and below) show the response after 7 years . . .

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Grandmother oak

5 03 2019

A few years ago I encountered an ancient coast live oak that was so magnificent, it took my breath away. At first sight the oak was barely noticeable, hidden behind a wall of young Douglas fir and bay laurel trees. But after slipping past the young trees Grandmother oak appeared. Her trunk was massive, at least 20 feet in girth, and was clearly pollarded by the native people. I estimated her age to be about 500 years, possibly older.

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Grandmother oak has spent most of her life under the care of native people, who employed fire to manage the oak woodlands and other ecosystems. They would burn frequently enough to keep fuel loads down, so that the fires stayed on the ground and did not damage the canopies. These fires kept young trees, potential competitors for light and other resources, from encroaching on the oaks. They pollarded the oaks, a common practice of repeatedly cutting the lead stem so as to encourage multiple large spreading branches. This, as any orchard farmer knows, is the most efficient shape for maximizing fruit or nut production. In this case, the native people were managing for efficiency in the production and gathering of acorns.

After the California native people were forced from the land, ranchers followed in many places, such as here where Grandmother oak resides. For nearly a century this land was heavily grazed by cattle and horses, which, like fire, kept the young trees from encroaching.

The land was eventually sold about 30 years ago and stopped being a working ranch. Without any fire or grazing disturbance, dozens of young fir and bay trees quickly started growing around and under the oak. By the time I arrived in 2017 many of the fir were taller than Grandmother oak and were shading out the edges of her canopy. With the added competition for light, water, and nutrients, Grandmother oak was clearly beginning to suffer. Thus, the owner’s called on me for help.

I proposed trying fire mimicry, and they agreed. In early March of 2017 I, and my dedicated crew, began treating Grandmother oak, first clearing away the encroaching fir and bay trees, pruning the dead branches, and removing the mosses and lichens from the trunk. We then fertilized the soils beneath the canopy with compost tea, followed by alkaline-rich minerals, and applied a limewash (a kind of poultice) to the trunk.

The results after just two years of treatments are exciting. as the photos below show Grandmother oak is clearly recovering. If all goes well, she may live another 500 years!

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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