Fire ecology manipulation by California native cultures

July 25, 2014

Before the colonial era, 100,000s of people lived on the land now called California, and many of their cultures manipulated fire to control the availability of plants they used for food, fuel, tools, and ritual. Contemporary tribes continue to use fire to maintain desired habitat and natural resources.

Frank Lake, an ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Southwest Station, will lead a field trip to the Stone Lake National Wildfire Refuge during the Ecological Society of America's 99th Annual Meeting, in Sacramento, Cal. this August. Visitors will learn about plant and animal species of cultural importance to local tribes. Don Hankins, a faculty associate at California State University at Chico and a member of the Miwok people, will co-lead the trip, which will end with a visit to California State Indian Museum.

Lake will also host a special session on a "sense of place," sponsored by the Traditional Ecological Knowledge section of the Ecological Society, that will bring representatives of local tribes into the Annual Meeting to share their cultural and professional experiences working on tribal natural resources issues.

"The fascinating thing about the Sacramento Valley and the Miwok lands where we are taking the field trip is that it was a fire and flood system," said Lake. "To maintain the blue and valley oak, you need an anthropogenic fire system."

Lake, raised among the Yurok and Karuk tribes in the Klamath River area of northernmost California, began his career with an interest in fisheries, but soon realized he would need to understand fire to restore salmon. Fire exerts a powerful effect on ecosystems, including the quality and quantity of water available in watersheds, in part by reducing the density of vegetation.

"Those trees that have grown up since fire suppression are like straws sucking up the groundwater," Lake said.

The convergence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers was historically one of the largest salmon bearing runs on the West Coast, Lake said, and the Miwok, Patwin and Yokut tribal peoples who lived in the area saw and understood how fire was involved.

California native cultures burned patches of forest in deliberate sequence to diversify the resources available within their region. The first year after a fire brought sprouts for forage and basketry. In 3 to 5 years, shrubs produced a wealth of berries. Mature trees remained for the acorn harvest, but burning also made way for the next generation of trees, to ensure a consistent future crop. Opening the landscape improved game and travel, and created sacred spaces.

"They were aware of the succession, so they staggered burns by 5 to 10 years to create mosaics of forest in different stages, which added a lot of diversity for a short proximity area of the same forest type," Lake said. "Complex tribal knowledge of that pattern across the landscape gave them access to different seral stages of soil and vegetation when tribes made their seasonal rounds."

In oak woodlands, burning killed mold and pests like the filbert weevil and filbert moth harbored by the duff and litter on the ground. People strategically burned in the fall, after the first rain, to hit a vulnerable time in the life cycle of the pests, and maximize the next acorn crop. Lake thinks that understanding tribal use of these forest environments has context for and relevance to contemporary management and restoration of endangered ecosystems and tribal cultures.

"Working closely with tribes, the government can meet its trust responsibility and have accountability to tribes, and also fulfill the public trust of protection of life, property, and resources," Lake said. "By aligning tribal values with public values you can get a win-win, reduce fire along wildlife-urban interfaces, and make landscapes more resilient."
-end-
Ecological Society of America's 99th Annual Meeting, August 10-15th, 2014, in Sacramento, Cal.

Main
Program
Press Information
App

FT 4: Tribal Land and Resource Management in the Sacramento Valley-Delta: Fire and Culture

Saturday, August 9, 2014: 9:00 AM-5:00 PM
Organizer: Frank K. Lake, U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station
Co-organizer: Don Hankins, California State University, Chico>

SS 10: Sense of Place

Monday, August 11, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:30 AM
Organizer: Frank K. Lake
Co-organizer: Ronald A. Trosper
Tribes represented include: Pomo, Coastal Miwok, Plains Miwok, and Miwok.

More fire ecology at the upcoming meeting: http://esa.org/am/info/press/topics/#fire

The Ecological Society of America is the world's largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Ecological Society of America

Related Natural Resources Articles from Brightsurf:

NOAA report reveals condition of natural and cultural resources of Papahānaumokuākea
NOAA published a peer-reviewed State of the Monument report jointly produced by the co-trustees of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

Web resources bring new insight into COVID-19
Two new web resources put at researchers' fingertips information about cellular genes whose expression is affected by coronavirus infection and place these data points in the context of the complex network of host molecular signaling pathways.

A century of misunderstanding of a key tool in the economics of natural resources
In the past few weeks, oil prices have fallen to record lows.

Neanderthals: Pioneers in the use of marine resources
An international team have just demonstrated that Neanderthals hunted, fished, and gathered prodigious volumes of seafood and other marine animals: they discovered remains of molluscs, crustaceans, fish, birds, and mammals in a Portuguese cave (Figueira Brava) occupied by Neanderthals between 106,000 and 86,000 BCE.

Groundwater resources in Africa resilient to climate change
Groundwater -- a vital source of water for drinking and irrigation across sub-Saharan Africa -- is resilient to climate variability and change, according to a new study led by UCL and Cardiff University.

New epidemic forecast model could save precious resources
When governments and institutions deploy epidemic forecast models when facing an outbreak, they sometimes fail to factor in human behavior and over-allocate precious resources as a result.

Hydrogen-natural gas hydrates harvested by natural gas
A recent study has suggested a new strategy for stably storing hydrogen, using natural gas as a stabilizer.

Cash programs that help the poor can harm natural resources
Poverty programs throughout the world that give poor families cash for food, education and health needs can have unintended consequences for communities that depend on natural resources, such as fish and trees.

Natural resources valued differently by men and woman, study shows
Men and women value, access and use resources from the natural environment in distinct and different ways, a new study has shown.

Elephants take to the road for reliable resources
Landscapes can change from day-to-day and year-to-year, and many animals will move about according to resource availability.

Read More: Natural Resources News and Natural Resources Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.