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Parks Stewardship Forum

UC Berkeley

2020 Woodward Fire case study: Examining the role of fire as an ecological process in a coastal California ecosystem

  • Author(s): O’Gallagher, Maritte J.
  • Jones, Gregory A.
  • Parsons, Lorraine S.
  • Press, Dave T.
  • Rehlaender, Wende E.
  • Skartvedt, Stephen
  • Forrestel, Alison B.
  • et al.
Abstract

Of the countless fires that burned across California ecosystems during the record-breaking and destructive 2020 fire season, the Woodward Fire, which burned nearly 5,000 acres of Point Reyes National Seashore wilderness lands, stands out as one instance in which the return of fire as an ecological process to this landscape may promote positive outcomes. Here we present the ecological narrative of the Woodward Fire as an opportunity to investigate the effects of mixed-severity fire burning across a mosaic of diverse California coastal habitat types with a complex fire history. Early observations indicate that the Woodward Fire may yield net positive ecological effects across the burn area beyond just reduction of surface fuels, such as increased heterogeneity across the landscape, shifts in vegetation types, and possible appearance of rare fire-following species.

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