What’s the baseline? Carbon storage in a northern California mixed-conifer forest before fire suppression policies
Developed under CAL FIRE grant 18-CCI-FH-0007-SHU
Clarke Knight, University of California Berkeley
To properly evaluate the impact of altered disturbance regimes, we need the baseline information available from decadal- to millennial-scale records of disturbances and ecosystem responses (McLauchlan et al. 2014). Paleo-ecological insights from fossil pollen data in lake sediments, tree-ring analyses of fire history, witness tree data from General Land Office (GLO) survey reports, and spatial interpolations from contemporary forest inventories provide the means to document historic fire regimes and biomass trends in California. As a third year doctoral student at UC Berkeley, I am already leveraging paleo-ecological data (+1,000 years) from fossil pollen, historic survey data (1880s), and existing fire scar/charcoal data to provide a biomass record of unprecedented depth for fire-suppressed California forests.
This project measures how disturbance influences long-term carbon dynamics where tree biomass is a proxy for carbon. With funding from the I am not only testing a basic tenet of forest carbon dynamics, but also answering questions related to biomass storage and fire history. With these results, I will (1) put fire suppression policy in an historical context; (2) inform our understanding of what forest health looked like in past environments; and (3) provide an opportunity to reassess assumptions about long-term carbon storage and determine if policy goals are feasible.