A Pepperwood Fire Mitigation and Forest Health Initiative update.
|Team Pepperwood at Boggs Mountain rocking the hard hats:
Michael Gillogly, Lisa Micheli, and Sophia Porter
We met at the Boggs Mountain CalFire forest station, which had been an island of firefighting activity during the onset of the Valley Fire less than two months ago, before the guys who worked there put up their “white flags” and had to get helicoptered out. The station itself survived and was in a zone of relatively low burn severity. While some of the trees showed sign of char from the flames, the ground itself was covered with recently dropped pine needles which draped a soft looking sepia carpet over whatever scorched soils lay beneath.
|Field map of burn zone, fire severity, Boggs boundary,
and remaining live trees.
|Forester showing how to expose cambium and
example of healthy indicators despite scorched bark.
Don Lindsay of California’s Geologic Survey showed us the water quality/sediment runoff study sites that are being installed at multiple locations to measure how much soil erodes this winter off of the forest floor. This is really important given we are in an El Niño season that could bring heavy rains! Will the more severely burned areas shed more soil than the less severely burned areas? Lindsay’s study (in partnership with university researchers) will create controlled study sites where literally all of the sediment coming out of a small drainage (1-2 acres) uphill will be captured and measured. They will also measure the amount of incoming rain and water coming off the sites using a rain gauge plus a small dam and water depth measurement setup. (See photo below). It’s exciting to know they are collecting this critical data and it’s also clearly a lot of work. Don has been hustling to get the sediment traps installed before the onset of the rainy season.
|Don Lindsay of Cal Geological Survey showing a water quality
|Eerie shape left where a living tree stump used to be.
Someone in our group started to observe that beetle activity was already evident on the burned trees, including tiny little piercings on the bark surface and some kind of extruded waste collecting at the bottom of the tree which was oddly a light pink-orange color. With the threat of bug infestations helping to take out what’s left, starting next spring the foresters will focus intently on planting new trees, and apparently a range of planting techniques will be designed and tested at Boggs Mountain State Forest. On the way out we saw many signs of miraculous life coming back on its own: a bracken fern that had pushed up through the charcoal soils, and this fresh oak shoot coming off a fried stump. I thank Nick and Fred for hosting us and I look forward to visiting again next spring to help track the recovery of the site!
|Oak re-sprout—life carries on!
** Spall are flakes of a material that are broken off a larger solid body and can be produced by a variety of mechanisms. Spalling and spallation both describe the process of surface failure in which spall is shed.
*** Hydrophobic is repelling, tending not to combine with, or incapable of dissolving in water.