Sick redwoods in Alamo, CA respond to fire mimicry

19 10 2017


Last year I was contacted by a home owner in Alamo, California about his distressed valley oaks and redwood trees. Yesterday I checked on the status of the trees and today am reporting on the results with the redwoods. In a followup post I will report on the results with the valley oaks.

The redwoods were treated last October with fire mimicry methods, and in one year have made notable improvement in canopy health and size. The photos here tell the  story far better than I can . . .

Slide10 Read the rest of this entry »


Diseased oaks flourishing after 12 years

29 11 2016


Twelve years ago today I initiated fire mimicry treatments on a grove of diseased coast live oaks in Marin County, CA. Since then Leith Carstarphen has been doing the followup work on these trees. Several of these oaks have stem canker infections, probably Sudden Oak Death disease. Two of the oaks in this grove have since died from stem canker infections, but the remainder of the oaks are clearly flourishing.

I should note that, for the above oak, the yellow appearance of the foliage in the recent (right) photo is due to dense clusters of yellowish male flowers.

These thriving oaks stand as testimony to the long-term efficacy of indigenous-based tending techniques (e.g., fire mimicry) in restoring the health of oak forests.




World Wood Day 2016 – Nepal

10 04 2016

I recently participated on a project in Nepal in support of World Wood Day 2016, sponsored by the International Wood Culture Society. There were over 100 countries represented by the participants! Our project involved building a temple out of reworked rubble from the 2015 earthquake. Below are some images of the experience.


IMG_3873 Read the rest of this entry »

Global warming in Oxford?

21 11 2015

I just returned from a trip to England where I gave a talk at the Geological Society of London on “Biological modification of pH in the earth system”. More on that later . . . After my talk I visited Green Templeton College at Oxford University where I worked as a Visiting Fellow in 1997. Located at the college is Radcliffe Observatory, home of the Radcliffe meteorological station, which has provided weather data since 1767 and constitutes the “longest series of temperature and rainfall records for one site in Britain“. This station is (was) part of the Central England Temperature record that purports to be “the longest instrumental record of temperature in the world“. Thus, with regards to surface observations on climate, this station is one of, if not, is the most important weather station in the world. (Update – Some commenters have pointed out that this station is no longer being used in the daily CET record. Based on this it does not seem to qualify as a most important record in the world. H/T Nick Stokes) I’ve been intrigued by this station ever since I saw it in the mid 90s, and have wondered what the area was like more than 200 years ago, and how the subsequent urbanization has affected those weather records.

When I arrived at the college I was a bit horrified to see this . . .

Radcliffe weather station A

How do you suppose this affects the temperature readings? The warm exhaust air from the heater is located about 20 feet from the temperature sensor. The porter said it was a temporary structure that was set up every so often. I was unable to consult with the weather observer about how this situation came about or whether any corrections are being made to the data.

Radcliffe weather station B

Ponderosa pines responding to fire mimicry

26 04 2015


In the same area as the oaks I reported on in the previous post, I also inspected some ponderosa pine trees that have received fire mimicry treatment. These are photos of the pines after 5 years of treatment. While the responses of the pines are not as dramatic as seen in the nearby oaks, there is a noticeable improvement in canopy density of the pines. For comparison, the last photo set shown is of an untreated pine.

Slide22 Read the rest of this entry »

Santa Barbara area oak health alert!

13 03 2011

I’ve just returned from a visit to Santa Barbara where I am working on a number of properties with sick oaks. I’m not sure very many people are aware, but many of the coast live oaks in Santa Barbara are suffering. I’ve inspected dozens of properties in Santa Barbara and Montecito and in almost every case I’ve found one or more coast live oaks that are infected with bleeding stem cankers. Often associated with this stem canker disease (which exhibits symptoms similar to Phytophthora infections) are a variety of fungal pathogens (e.g. Hypoxylon) and insect pests (e.g. oak bark beetles).  The sad thing is that the trees which are most affected by this decline are the large, centuries-old heritage oaks.

Of course, while these diseases and pests are clearly involved in the final demise of the oaks, they are not the real problem. Decades of fire suppression in these fire-adapted oak ecosystems has led to nutrient deficiency in the soils, declining canopy cover, a buildup of acidifying mosses and lichens, and bark deterioration.

For the past several years I have been using fire mimicry techniques to help the oaks in the Santa Barbara area. Today I would like to show the results on three large oaks I’ve been treating on a property in Montecito. As you can see in the photos above and below that two of the three oaks have responded quite nicely to the fire mimicry work. However, one severely diseased oak did not make it. I estimated that this oak was at least 200 years old when it died. Read the rest of this entry »

Acid rain in Big Sur – February 2011

2 03 2011

Sunset at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur. Photo by Sonya Klinger.

February 2011 in Big Sur was typically wet. There were nine precipitation events totaling 5.75”. Readings were taken for eight events and the results are reported below. Read the rest of this entry »