Tuesday, 18 November 2003: 4:00 PM
Vegetation recovery in the Biscuit Fire, Siskiyou National Forest, Oregon
The Biscuit Fire in southwestern Oregon started July 13, 2002 from a lightning event and continued to burn well into fall. Initially, six fires were ignited, which burned together to form the approximately 499,965 acre Biscuit Fire. It is the largest recorded fire in the last century in Oregon. The area burned is located in the Klamath Mountains, an area known for high plant diversity. Eight plant series were affected by the fire: Oregon white oak, Jeffrey pine, Douglas-fir, tanoak, western hemlock, white fir, Shasta red fir, and Port-Orford-cedar. The much of the area is adapted to frequent fire, with return intervals, ranging from 3 to 20 years for Oregon white oak to 30 to 100 years for coastal western hemlock. The fire burned in a mosaic of burn severities, including unburned areas within the fire perimeter. The percentage of high severity fire ratings differed between plant series. Over 50 percent of the area was rated as high severity in the drier Jeffrey pine, white fir and Douglas-fir plant association groups. We feel this is a greater percentage of high severity fire than generally occurred under historic conditions. The moister Shasta red fir, western hemlock and tanoak showed much less high severity areas. An evaluation of fire effects between August 30 and September 14 revealed, in high severity areas, the recovery of many species of sprouting shrubs, including tanoak. Conifer cones had been torn apart by squirrels and seeds scattered by birds. Ferns and perennial forbs also showed recovery, and one species, spreading dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium) was in flower. The insectivorous plant, Darlingtonia californica, was resprouting. In this fire adapted system we found evidence of immediate vegetation recovery.