Monday, May 16, 2016

A cedar wasteland rebirth?

     The Anderson Creek Fire started on March 22 and burned unfettered for days regardless of valiant efforts by hundreds of firefighters and at least 130 various fire units. In its wake were 400,000 scorched acres of rangeland and cedar stands. Although some homes and many miles of fences were destroyed, amazingly no people were killed. We are all so very thankful! We have enjoyed a few weeks of recovery thanks to some very strategic precipitation events. It's not surprising to see the rangeland bounce back so nicely since prairies depend not only on rain but also periodic burns for replenishment. This keeps invasives such as eastern redcedar from the uplands as well. What will be very interesting will be how the grasslands within cedar forests respond. This particular set of photopoints depicts the slow greening of the soil beneath such a cedar forest. Where soil chemistry has been changed from the cedars, it will be a slow and difficult recovery, but some greening is happening in this once quite sterile environment. Ideally, all these old dead skeletons can be removed if soil disturbance can be kept to a minimum. Erosion is going to be a serious issue so it is very important to see some plants establish as soon as possible. Although frustratingly slow in the cedar forest wasteland, it is happening. 

The prairie is responding spectacularly to
the burn and the precipitation
in just four weeks. The cedar forest areas
are going to take a lot longer!

April 7 about two weeks after this area burned

April 23, about a month after the burn

May 15, about six weeks after the burn
     Six weeks from the initiation of the Anderson Creek Fire, some resprouting of some plants is occurring in the spaces between the cedar skeletons. Little is germinating immediately beneath the dead trees but hopefully at least something will eventually establish in order to help hold the soil in place. Even though these cedars are dead and no longer suck valuable water from the subsurface, they take up space and prevent cattle and deer from foraging in and moving through these areas. 

Next in the fire series--the immaculate restoration. 

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