Fire history in coast redwood forests of the Mendocino Coast, California
MetadataShow full item record
We reconstructed fire history in old-growth coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) stands along an ocean-to-inland gradient in Jackson Demonstration State Forest on the Mendocino Coast in northern California, USA. Fire history was reconstructed for the past two to four centuries using fire scars recorded in tree rings. Surface fires were frequent disturbances in all stands prior to the early twentieth century. Composite mean fire-free intervals aggregated within stands varied from 6 to 20 years, and point mean fire-free intervals averaged within trees varied from 9 to 20 years. Fires ceased in the early 20th century coincident with the advent of organized fire suppression efforts beginning in the 1930s. Fire frequency did not vary significantly along the ocean-inland gradient. Although several of the inland stands tended to record shorter intervals between fires, there was high variability among sites. These and analogous fire-scar data from other studies across the range of coast redwood forests suggest that fire frequencies have been underestimated in some past assessments. A principal reason is that fire-scar records on coast redwood trees are difficult to locate because of inadequate preservation compared to other species that experienced surface fires. Cessation of surface fires has resulted in shifts in fuel and forest structure over recent decades, and the fire history reconstructed by this study provides both guidelines and justification for ecological restoration efforts in coast redwood forests of this region.