Save the Redwoods League has been looking at how its grove can recover from the Castle Fire.
The organization dedicated to the preservation of the Sierra Nevada's Giant Sequoias and coastal Redwoods was able to purchase Alder Creek in December 2019 through contributions it received. Alder Creek contains 530 acres with hundreds of Giant Sequoias.
But much of Alder Creek was destroyed by the Castle Fire which made up almost the entire Sequoia Complex. In recent weeks the organization has been studying ways on how to plant new seedlings and has also been monitoring new growth in the grove.
Much of Alder Creek was destroyed by the Castle Fire which made up virtually the entire Sequoia Complex. Save The Redwoods League is now looking at how the forest it purchased can recover from the fire.
Garrison Frost of the Save The Redwood Leagues authored an article about the organization's efforts which is posted on the organization's blog.
Frost wrote Tim Borden, the organization's sequoia restoration and stewardship manager, stated numerous Giant Sequoia seedlings are sprouting in burn areas within the grove.
Borden also expressed to Frost the difference between the areas of Alder Creek which were burned by low-to-moderate fire as opposed to the areas that were burned by high intensity fire. And again Frost's article again noted what the organization has stated before in than climate change and decades of misguided fire suppression efforts have led to the devastation created by the Castle Fire.
“In certain patches, nature is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do, and you can see these seedlings coming up right where the low- to moderate-fire came through,” Borden told Frost. “And they’re really growing fast, thriving in that soil type.”
But where the Castle Fire burned at high severity the situation is different. The fire not only killed dozens of Giants Sequoias, but also destroyed cones and seeds and burned the soil.
Frost's article again noted what the organization has stated before in than climate change and decades of misguided fire suppression efforts have led to the devastation created by the Castle Fire.
One of the first studies the organization is conducting is to look at how well new seedlings survive in severely burned areas.
In the study, seedlings were planted in different directions from each of 11 dead trees to assess how they do under various conditions, including when they're exposed to the sun. Robert York, an adjunct associate professor of forestry at UC Berkeley, is leading the study.
Twenty seedlings from nearby Mountain Home and Black Mountain groves have been planted within a two-acre ridge at Alder Creek that burned particularly hot in the Castle Fire. In the study, the seedlings will be monitored to see how successful restoration planting could be.
Borden told Frost while Giant Sequoias weren't logged at Alder Creek, the logging of other trees actually contributed to thickness that restricted new Giant Sequoia Growth. Borden added that along with ill-advised fire suppression efforts led to what happened in the Castle Fire.
“While the previous owners of this property didn’t cut down Giant Sequoia, they nonetheless logged other tree species heavily — such as sugar pine —which resulted in a thick understory of young white fir and incense cedar that restricted new giant sequoia growth in the last few decades,” Borden told Frost. “And it was this understory, thanks to years of fire suppression, that burned so hot in the Castle Fire.”
Save The Redwoods League and many others have been advocating a more active management of the forest, which includes prescribed burning. Officials have stated that more active management that included prescribed burning played a huge role in saving Balch Park and Mountain Home State Forest from being destroyed by the Sequoia Complex.
Borden said the goal is to create a situation in which the different trees can thrive together in a changing climate.
“Because this type of high-severity fire is so unprecedented, we still have a lot to learn,” Borden told Frost. “These on-the-ground studies will help us put this ecosystem on a strong path to recovery.”