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Plant Focus

A guest post by Matt Candeias, host of the In Defense of Plants podcast and blog

Mortality and Resprouting in California Oak Woodlands Following Mixed-Severity Wildfire

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David D. Ackerly, Melina Kozanitas, Prahlada Papper, Meagan Oldfather, and Matthew Clark

Published May 2019 in International Oaks No. 30: 23–30.


We quantified fire severity in the Tubbs Fire (Sonoma Co., CA, October 2017) across different vegetation types, as well as post-fire mortality and regeneration of tree species in permanent plots at the Pepperwood Preserve. The fire burned 14,895 ha, with > 25% in both medium and high severity. Chaparral and Pinus attenuata stands mostly burned at high severity, while other vegetation types experienced a fairly even distribution of fire severity. The fire killed 50% of saplings (DBH < 1 cm) and 27% of trees (DBH ≥ 1 cm), with higher mortality in high-severity patches. Quercus agrifolia, Q. kelloggii, Arbutus menziesii and Umbellularia californica exhibited very high levels of topkill combined with basal resprouting. Pseudotsuga menziesii, which lacks resprouting ability, exhibited high mortality, especially in saplings at high severity. The results provide a baseline to examine potential vegetation change due to high-severity fire, especially in high-severity stands of P. menziesii.


Pepperwood Forest Dynamics Project, basal sprouting, topkill, survival, mixed hardwood forest, fire severity, Quercus, Pseudotsuga menziesii, Arbutus menziesii, Umbellularia californica


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Oldfather, M.F., M.N. Britton, P.D. Papper, M.J. Koonts, M.M. Halbur, C. Dodge, A.L. Flint, L.E. Flint, and D.D Ackerly. 2016. Effects of topoclimatic complexity on the composition of woody plant communities. AoB Plants 8: plw049.

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Uchytil, R. 1991. Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii. In Fire Effects Information System. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. https://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/tree/psemenm/all.html