Fire Ecology

Despite the apparent devastation after a wildland fire, fire is essential to the health of many vegetation communities in Coastal Southern California national parks. Understanding the role of fire and the effects of vegetation change is critical for park management to understand current fire ecology and possible impacts on both public safety and native biodiversity.

Past Research
[blurb about past research]

  Cabrillo Channel Islands Santa Monica Mountains
Potential wild fire occurrences X    
Post-fire rehabilitation X    
Issues that promote public safety and management of fires on an ecosystem basis X    

Current Research
Fire ecology studies currently focus on fire-related factors that drive landscape level vegetation patterns. Current research is focused on:

  Cabrillo Channel Islands Santa Monica Mountains
Examining the use of fire to control exotic grasses and facilitate the restoration of native grasses, shrubs, and oaks   X X
Plant physiological ecology studies of water relations, rooting patterns, and drought tolerance in native shrubs with different post-fire reproductive strategies     X
The effect of short inter-fire intervals resulting from increased fire frequencies on native shrub persistence     X
Relationships between fire breaks and patterns of exotic species invasions     X
Analysis of existing vegetation patterns, terrain, and development patterns to determine where the greatest wild fire hazards are and where the best opportunities exist to improve fire safety and preserve natural resources.     X

Research Opportunities
Research that assists park managers in understanding the role fire plays, such as fire effects on diversity, ecological processes, ecosystem threats, resource management, and hazard mitigation strategies, in the parks is valuable. centerics of interest include (but are not limited to):

  Cabrillo Channel Islands Santa Monica Mountains
Ongoing work with historic vegetation survey data and historic aerial photography in combination with the results of a new vegetation map   X X
Documenting the effects of historic land use and fire regimes on modern vegetation patterns and dynamics   X X
Resampling historic vegetation plots   X X
Improving the quality of our GIS-based fire history and natural history databases   X X
Forecasting for future states of our landscape with and without human-introduced and managed fires X X  
Identification of opportunities to mitigate the effects of accidental fires, fires intentionally started as a component of management activities, or fire suppression activities in an efficient, cost-effective and ecologically sensitive mitigation X X  
How fire, or lack of fire, dictates vegetation patterns X    
The role fire plays in erosion X    
How fire, or lack of fire, affect integrity and diversity of ecological communities (e.g. community composition and how it differs in the “old-growth” coastal sage scrub habitats in the present as compared to post-burn communities) X    
Studies that prioritize future fire management actions X    
Documenting how past disturbance regimes influenced current vegetation patterns     X
Using the new vegetation map and derived products of our fire history database as inputs to predictive models to forecast the future states of our landscape, prioritize future management actions, and identify opportunities to mitigate the worst hazards in an efficient, cost-effective and ecologically sensitive manner     X