PS 82-81 - The effects of prescribed fire on California Indian cultural use plant species in a serpentine woodland

Friday, August 12, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Arielle Anita Halpern1, Frank K. Lake2, Thomas J. Carlson1 and Wayne P. Sousa3, (1)Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, (2)Pacific Southwest Research Station, U.S. Forest Service, Orleans, CA, (3)Dept. of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA

The Karuk Tribe of the mid-Klamath watershed in northwestern California uses prescribed fire to cultivate and maintain plant populations for food, basket materials, browse for game, medicine, and ceremonial purposes. The objective of this study is to quantify the temporal effects of prescribed fire on culturally important plant species diversity found in serpentine woodlands. The study area was selected through collaborations with the U.S. Forest Service and Karuk basket weavers as an area containing important populations of plants used as basketry materials. After identification, the study area was scheduled for a prescribed burn by the Forest Service. This study area is located in a serpentine woodland at 4600 ft. elevation in the Siskiyou Mountains near the Klamath River in Six Rivers National Forest. The dominant vegetation is mixed conifer forest interspersed with serpentine shrub assemblages. Median fire return interval for this area is approximately 8-16 years. This 70 acre area was identified as an important Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax, Liliaceae) gathering site. It was divided into quarters with each quarter scheduled for prescribed fire every 5 years. Five Intensive modified Whittaker plots were constructed in the quarter to be burned in 2010 and five plots were constructed in adjacent areas left unburned for the duration of treatment. Pre-burn vegetation data was collected on all plots including information on presence/absence and percent cover. Plant specimens were identified to the smallest taxonomic unit. Plots will be monitored for 4-5 years post-prescribed fire.


Preliminary results indicate that 21 species in 20 genera were present in plots before fire. Five additional specimens were identified to the genus level. Arctostaphylos spp. and Quercus vaccinifolia were responsible for highest percent cover on most plots.  Fire was applied to the study area in October of 2010 shortly after the first rains. The burn was low intensity with small areas of lower crown scorch in more densely forested areas. Due to prolonged precipitation and abnormally low temperatures this year, first year post-burn vegetation data will be collected starting in June. Expected results one year post-burn will include an initial reduction in rhizomatous herbaceous species in the vicinity of conifers, increased size and number of Beargrass bunches, increase in canopy cover of resprouting Scrub Oak (Quercus vaccinifolia) and Scrub Tanoak (Notholithcarpus densiflorus var. echinoides). This study will help introduce a valuable tribal perspective on northern California land and resource management to the scientific community.

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