It is very important to note that before and after the 1979 fire there
were no alien plant species in the chaparral; the grassland and
foothill woodland plant communities only had wild oats (Avena fatua).
The other important note is that when the annual, fire-following
wildflowers died down for the summer, they left little litter. Clean
bare ground is normal and healthy. (The same situation occurs in other
relatively undisturbed plant communities; wildflowers waist deep in
early spring with no weeds, in summer, no litter or dead matter taller
than 1”, with bare patches in between, on the same site.) This
no fuel! Compare this with the introduced species like yellow star
thistle (Centauria sp) or rip gut (Bromus diandrus). The fibrous stems
stay erect and flammable long after the plant is dead.
Notes on California's ecology
We have spent the last 17 years trying to develop strategies to
overcome the introduced weeds on this site (and others). We have had to
reevaluate our 40 years of experience in California native plants and
the theories we learned in college. Below is the information we have
learned to date about 'restoring' a 'grass'-seeded site and why it is
necessary to at least try to partially restore the site.
After 17 years the star thistle is in decline(waiting for the next
fire, that its debris favors) but the Bromus (grass) and Erodium that
CDF (CAL fire) seeded has spread to the non-seeded areas carrying another fire
into a formerly clean area and killing more oaks and pines.
Much of the data on the ecology of California has been fatally (for the
ecology) flawed by misinterpretation or misunderstanding the parameters
of our ecosystems.
a. Any fire data based on midwinter or spring burns is invalid. Wet
soil kills the underground biomass. (Dunn, et.
Many of the herbivores are in hibernation in the winter and
are left alive in large numbers to eat the new growth as it emerges.
Any herbivore study based on small-scale data is invalid. Our wildfires
normally cover thousands of acres, pushing the herbivores long
distances away from the seedlings or crown sprouts.
c. Any excess nitrogen will force a decline of the mycorrhizal
So why do the
researchers insist of fertilizing native plant communities? California
does not have highly fertile soils in any plant community (other than
Riparian) unless the community is destroyed or burned because the
community structure limits the nutrition of the site. That is, if you
test a site with fertilizer you kill or greatly suppress the
mycorrhizal associations on the site, completely changing the ecology
of the site.
2. Any study that looks at only one variable without including the
variations caused by other variables is not valid. (D. J. Read; Read, et.al.; Coleman, et. al.)
3. Broad-based studies are much more valid and give better data. For
example, Medina and Silva have an excellent graph of the effects of the
underground biomass (mycorrhizas are the main component) and above
ground biomass (plants) after a fire in the Venezuela savanna. It shows
the mycorrhiza supporting the plants after a fire and then the plants
recharging the mycorrhiza as the plants recover and grow through their
seasons. The more variables included the more valid the study.
Mycorrhizas are left out of most studies. They change dramatically the
results if they are included. (D. J. Read,
4. Any study that looks at short-frequency fires as a normal occurrence
is fatally flawed. (Zedler, et.al.)
5. Any study that looks at our California ecosystem as a ruderal-based
system is fatally flawed. (Grime; Grime et.
al.; Perry, et. al., Pankow, et.al.)
6. Any study that looks at a California ecosystem in months instead of
decades has major limitations and may be fatally flawed.
7. If the information does not seem valid, question the source. Ask for
references and experiences. (Bad researchers quoting other bad
researchers! If you do not recognize any of the references or magazines
there may be a reason. If all the quotes are from range management,
fire, and trade type journals maybe it is not sound ecology you are
hearing. Journals called the likes of Billy Bob's Wildland Revival or
University Agriculture and published by a chemical company may be