Rim Fire: What's Next (ecologically)?

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Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 01:55pm PT
On more simpler terms, im sure there will be plantings of various species of trees native to the region and "zone". Arial seeding of grasses for erosion concerns also a common practice. That burn was sloppy in many places and leaves islands of trees/ seed sources , so near those areas natural regen is a possible. Other areas will require artificial regeneration to have any trees in it. Much of the north , north east sections of the fire, being so rocky wont see much if any rehab work. Even though trees grew in that area before the fire, artificial regeneration in those places tends to have little survival rates 5 yrs post planting. South facing slopes will also have a dire time recovering as they are naturally drier - facing the sun.

Then take in the siege of invasive weeds we experience these days from whit top to thistles. Cyanosis (sp?) species are also quite common post burn in many zones throughout NV/CA/Or/Wa. They can easily become the climax species and drown out competition.
Water erosion work will be a critical part of the rehab in the important watershed. Im sure there are teams there now, all planning the next ten years worth of rehab work on this burn. Its a slow process no matter the issues faced. The tree count alone is in the millions. Volunteer to go planting, and remember,, green side UP!;-)

mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 02:02pm PT
Lodgepole pine serotiny depends on adaptations to the local fire regime

Muir, P. S. and J. E. Lotan. 1985. Disturbance history and serotiny of Pinus contorta in western Montana. Ecology 66:1658-1668

and squirrels

http://www.uwyo.edu/benkman/pdfs%20of%20papers/serotiny.pdf

Just hope it doesn't get covered with white thorn. Hate that sh#t.



Arial seeding of grasses for erosion concerns also a common practice.

Studies I'm aware of show seeding with grasses is ineffective unless it is followed almost immediately by adequate rain, but not so much that it exceeds the infiltration capacity of the soil and causes overland flow. Not many people I know who work in BAER advocate aerial seeding any more... it is a waste of money. I'm sure they will have CCC crews hand seeding/raking/watering in highly vulnerable areas.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 02:27pm PT
In a burn that size wes, i wouldnt take out arial work. Its a race against time as you know. Many states still use planes , especially on huge acre burns. Not the best way , but it does help.

Rizzou canyon down by walker Ca burned a few years back, and is now a massive plot of thistles as far as you can see. Incredible over taking by a noxious invasive weed. There are some old burns along the Carson front range which took place 80 yrs ago, and are 100% cyanosis. Even with good seed cast on steep slopes, the brush became dominant.

I see two priorities for rehab.. The watershed for SF, and the "view corridors" along any major roadways. Which includes any lands around established areas, towns etc.

And, they could take this opportunity to increase the sequoia groves !

mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:01pm PT
What's the point of dropping seed if it ain't going to germinate? And it ain't going to germinate unless it is followed by the appropriate amount of rain.

Most (or all) of the aerial work will involve dropping straw mulch for soil cover. They may due some hydromulching (with or without seed) but unless they have significantly improved the mulch, it ain't going to work... and may make things worse.
the albatross

Gym climber
Flagstaff
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:07pm PT
I know of several helicopter companies that are involved in 'straw bale bombing", dropping straw over burned areas to slow the erosion process.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:08pm PT
Wes,, go to SE ELKO county and tell me arial seeding doesnt work..

They tend to plan things along with weather concerns/ wishes. Jus sayin..

Now a few questions arise as to what they will do for clean up. Immediate salvage sales where practical would be a good direction and good use of the wood, followed by some fire wood sales. Its going to need to be done quickly.

mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:16pm PT
Rong, I don't need to go to SE Elko... I've helped study the effectiveness of post-fire treatments (including seeding) on over a dozen burned sites across the western US. The ONE example you are familiar with that (may have) "worked" does not constitute a valid sample.

I know, I know... YOU "know" better than everyone else. 78% of the 94 sites (out of almost 20,000) considered to be relevant are meaningless because you saw seeding work in SE Elko.

https://www.firescience.gov/projects/briefs/08-2-1-11_FSBrief147.pdf
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:26pm PT
ohww youve been to almost a dozen burns ROFLMAO......

and you have a paper..


Ill keep this thread positive...






So yes, getting rid of much of the burned stems is now a priority i would imagine. Step one to rehab. Im positive they will consider some heli sales as well- as region 4 USFS my timber staff and crew did the first salvage heli sales done and it worked very well. Theres more than a few million board feet of still usable lumber there. And a few winters worth of fire wood for the surrounding towns. Any delay of this will delay a recovery. Heli logging can be quite sanitary with all slash still on the logs when they come into a deck. Chipped or stacked there. Lots of technique variables to be used.
mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:35pm PT
Excellent, great posts all around, and all true! Sometimes, aerial seeding can have great benefits, other times, not so much, even if you try really hard to take best advantage of weather, soils, aspect. Treatments that are great on a north slope might not work on a south slope of the same fire site, or vice versa. Or might work really well one year and not as well the next. I truly admire the agency resource folks, or anyone really, who know their areas well enough to make the difficult judgments of how to get the best environmental benefit from expenditures. The biggest takeaway message from all the great info here is, there's a lot of variation and the only way to sort it out is local knowledge.

Ron is SO totally right about how bad a post-fire weed infestation can be sometimes. That's Centaurea and Carduus (knapweeds and some of the thistles, like musk thistle that's rampant now in our area) I think you mean. (Cyanosis, that's from toking too hard and holding it in until you're literally blue in the face.) This is one of my pet concerns about doing anything: risk of introducing weed seeds that weren't there before. Straw bale bombing is a great method, but what's in that straw? Even if it's rice straw and you're bombing it up in the mountains where the low-elevation upland weeds might not be expected to survive, there are wetland weeds in rice fields, and those get in the burned mtn. meadow, and now we're screwed. Tall whitetop grows everywhere from sea level to at least 8,000 feet. Tools and equipment, the same deal. We always specify equipment to be washed before arrival, but that doesn't really happen. I know of two whitetop infestations in the past year just on exploration sites I'm working on, right there at the drill pads. Now, how did that happen?

Interesting papers, mechrist. Makes a lot of sense. Sorry about the whitethorn, there probably will be a ton of it at the elevations it prefers. Lower down, it will be non-thorny ceanothus. And poison oak! it loves a good burn and is brought in by birds. Oh, boy!
Crazy Bat

Sport climber
Birmingham, AL & Seweanee, TN
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:48pm PT
I can't answer the original question. I was in the area in July. Somewhere in the "Hyw 120 is closed" thread there was a map showing where previous fires had burned and when. I'm a biologist from the east and wondered about several of the different plant communities I had seen. After seeing the map I had a gut level understanding of some of the different plant communities.

mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:52pm PT
yep, even "certified weed free" straw ain't weed free.

The gf just spent 14 days as a READ, mostly flagging weeds so the dozers didn't spread them. It was up in Humboldt, so she also identified plenty of weed, hopefully preveting the firefighters from accidentally "burning out."

Ron, seeding success in SE Elko is significant... but a dozen sites across the west (each with at least 3 treatments and one control) and a synthesis of the available studies is laughable? Idiot.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 03:59pm PT
wes,, your feeble attempt to post a link left me with no clue as to WTF yur talking about ,, therefore i noted you had a paper. But thats about all one can deduce from said feeble attempt.. And yur a phd..??



Keep this positve wes. that is all, over and out.





mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 04:01pm PT
Here is a positive tip for you Ron, cut and paste the url into the address bar on your browser. I know you can do it, you are smart like that.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 04:14pm PT
Mongrel,, yes,, unfortunately the invasives we have now are the most prolific bastards ever eh! Wind driven seed three feet off the ground can do RAPID damage. The Rizzou canyon deal was gawd awful quick, the quickest ive ever seen a burn be over run. 18,000 acres of thistles two years. The burnt pinion seemed to be the perfect host micro climate for the seed as a shelterwood situation if you will.

Im not aware of the weed problems of the local area in the rim fire, but its prime land for them what ever they are..






mongrel

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 04:45pm PT
On the more general topic of postfire seeding, the summary note at the url posted above has a few key bits in it that emphasize why, in most respects, you can't just generalize all good or all bad.

The one most consistent finding is that, in the arid West, seeding is almost never effective in controlling erosion of upland areas. This principle holds not only for post-fire, but generally for disturbed soils. You can sometimes get a nice photo-op of a lot of green, but in reality our climates (and there are multiple, even within the arid West) do not support the level of vegetation cover of pioneer species that is necessary to control erosion. You have to achieve that by other means that are impossible and/or prohibitively expensive from the air (there are significant ecological downsides to those fancy expensive sprayed mulches too). Running equipment on recently burned soils is just about the absolute worst possible thing you can do with respect to erosion control.

The summary at firescience.gov makes it clear they're talking about treatments from 1970-2006. It would be a lot more valuable if they subdivided the papers they're summarizing by time period and what was in the seed mixes. It's not very relevant what happens from seeding non-native annual grasses, because that's not what's usually happening nowadays. Then there's an item (and I haven't gone back to the originals, though one would want to) to the effect that, about half of the reported cases of seeding to prevent takeover by weeds, it was effective, and the other half, it wasn't. What I would love to know is, what, if anything that we can discern, differentiates between the sites and treatments where this worked and the ones where it didn't? Even if it was 90 percent ineffective but 10 percent effective, why did those work? That's where the potential progress lies.

For my part, I've seen postfire sites in the Great Basin where seeding didn't do sh!t, and others where it was really beneficial. You really need to burrow into every last detail to learn from this. For example, seeds of some of the shrub species that you might judge to be highly desirable, like sagebrush and rabbitbrush, are really tiny and have very limited period of viability. Everything can be just perfect only if your sagebrush seed is older than it should be, it's a flop. My beef about seizing on failures and successes is lack of these tiny details that make all the difference. Was the sagebrush really the subspecies that it should be for your site? Can you trust that supplier? What did the label tag say about weed content, not just percentage, but species? If you already have cheat grass, well, maybe a half percent of it isn't that big of a deal in some otherwise desirable seed. But in a cheat grass free area, it's zero tolerance. And so on. Details are the whole thing.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 04:57pm PT
Indeed they are Mongrel. And yes ive seen both good and bad of aerial seeding, and have been involved in both good and bad. But on huge burns from what ive seen taking advantage of any percentage is normally practiced. Even hand planting seedling pines will have high mortality rates at 3 yr exams. For One, the critters love them! Deer nip terminal buds like grapes off the vine lol! Gophers prefer the chewy roots.. Ive fed massive amounts of wildlife in my time ..;-) THe wildlife will return to the edges. Deer roll in the fresh ash to get the bugs off them. Of course, there is also new structure paths for the local predators as well in those same edges. Things will change habitually for the local wildlife for some time to come. They are essentially displaced from much of the acreage of the fire now, for food and cover. Competition will be UP in the edge territory's.






mechrist

Gym climber
South of Heaven
Sep 10, 2013 - 05:02pm PT
mongrel, those are good questions... but reveal a bit of idealistic thinking. No way in hell you are going to find a source of native, locally adapted seed that comes anywhere close to covering the areas that would need to be covered for most post-fire restoration. I know some ecologists throughout the west who have collected seed mixes for specific restoration projects (fens, meadows, native plant gardens, etc). It is labor intensive and tricky for many of the reasons you point out (viability with age, weed free, etc). The notion of doing that for post-fire restoration is pretty far fetched... but doing it for my yard works pretty well!!!
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Soon to be Nipple suckling Liberal
Sep 10, 2013 - 05:09pm PT
That is true wes.

Seed collection should be happening,, uhhh NOW !

As far as trees,, common matches of altitude/aspect/species shouldnt be a problem. Area specific? No clue as to the collection process of the "Stan" these days. I know when i collected seed for the Toiyabe, i got a wide variety from most established aspects altitudes and species needed for the next ten yr plan plus any special collections from current events that year. But this is also a 2.5 yr minimum process via nursery's on contract to the USFS. That is a best case scenario of any collected seed this year.
FortMentäl

Social climber
Albuquerque, NM
Sep 10, 2013 - 05:57pm PT
Regrowth following a fire also depends on pre-existing health of the forest floor; plants, of course generate their local soil chemistries. If pre-fire conditions were already unhealthy, a post-fire floor chemistry will definitely become inhospitable to re-seeded natives.
slidingmike

climber
CA
Sep 10, 2013 - 06:39pm PT
I can see it now: a new forest of poison oak!
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