Tree of the Week: Do we need to help nature recover from fires?
Although the Station Fire is fresh in our minds, it is almost a year since the Sayre fire burned in the Sylmar area last November and a little over two years since the May 2007 Griffith Park fire. Our original native landscape, be it sagebrush, chaparral or woodland, is adapted to periodic fires occurring at intervals of 25 to 100 years and doesnâ€™t need our assistance to recover. As much as we love to help nature, she does quite well on her own. Buried seeds of native annuals and perennials will sprout but, exciting as it is to see wildflowers come up during the first spring and the gradual changes thereafter in the landscape, the recovery of mature brush and perennials will take many years. Even the resident animals will gradually return. Human fire recovery efforts, such as seeding slopes with nonnative grass, have usually done more harm than good.
So should man help nature recover from fire? Yes, but only as appropriate. In some wildland-urban interface areas, once it is safe to go back in, we should judiciously interfere through eradication of weeds, prevention of erosion, restoration of trails and the planting and maintenance of appropriate natives.
Although resources are available to fight fires, there is very little money for preventing the next fire or restoring nature. To find out more, help or volunteer, check out the Safe Landscapes Calendar or any of these websites: northeasttrees.org; angeles.sierraclub.org; treepeople.org; cal-ipc.org.
Photo: A tree damaged in the Sayre fire. Credit: Pieter Severynen