Researching Climate Conditions for CAL FIRE Wildfire Restoration Efforts

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In California, drought and warmer climates have increased the prevalence, severity, and duration of wildfires. These fires have destroyed over 129 million trees. In the aftermath of this devastation, there is heightened urgency to increase the capacity of seedling production, particularly for the lower-elevation and private lands that CAL FIRE is responsible to help manage. To support CAL FIRE in its restoration activities, USGS scientists, in collaboration with UC Davis, will review climate data sources to understand both historical patterns and develop future projections. From this research, scientists will provide Basin Characterization Model outputs for each of the future climate projections.  These models will be used to help determine future collection, curation, propagation, and planting of tree species in California.

Nursery grown trees that will be replanted in forests

Nursery grown trees that will be replanted in forests (courtesy of U.S. Forest Service)

This work is intended to support CAL FIRE in its efforts to develop a strategic framework for forest restoration activities associated with the ongoing wild fires, beetle outbreaks, climate change and other contributors to large tree mortality events. In the wake of the hottest drought in a millennium and associated mortality of over 129 million trees, there is heightened urgency to increase the capacity of seedling production, particularly for the lower-elevation and private lands that CAL FIRE is responsible to help manage. In response to these increasing pressures, CAL FIRE has initiated the reactivation of the seedling production nursery, located in East Davis, California, as part of an effort to expand the restoration and forest-maintenance capacity in the state.

In collaboration with private partners and federal agencies, CAL FIRE is developing a strategic framework to help guide the process of seed collection, storage, propagation, and planting. This framework will incorporate the historical way that seed lots and planting locations have been selected, and forecasts of future conditions related to climate change, in order to (1) minimize the risk of failed plantings and mis-directed funding expenditures, and (2) maximize planting success, by creating a forest management system that allows for adaptive improvements as more information on the effects of climate change and disturbance become evident.

This new framework, by incorporating the way historical decisions have been made, will enable linkages between historical practices and emerging information from new technologies and data availability. The scope is intended to support CalFire’s initiatives to activate a restoration nursery, located in Davis, California, and to inform strategic planning and decisions with regard to updating the seed zone framework for the collection, curation, propagation and planting of tree species in California.

Deliverables for this study are:

  1. A formal presentation of the results reviewing the climate data sources for both historical and future projections
  2. Participation in multi-agency workshop to present the various future options and help guide the selection of datasets
  3. Mapping layers of Basin Characterization Model output for selected future projections