Friday, May 14, 2010

Sagehen Forest Project Collaboration Exploration Meeting: 5-12-10

On Wednesday, May 12, 2010, a group of interested stakeholders met to talk about the possibility of collaborating on forest health treatments for the Sagehen basin.

Download the meeting notes, including a list of participants.

In this introductory meeting, the Tahoe National Forest, Pacific Southwest Research Station & UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station shared the work they've done to date to define the problem & the likely areas to be affected. Scott Conway, Scott Dailey & Kris Boatner presented for the Forest Service, Jeff Brown for Sagehen Creek Field Station. The panel discussion included Tom Quinn, Forest Supervisor; Joanne Roubique, District Ranger; Peter Stine, PSW; Bill Zielinsky, PSW; & others.

After the presentations at the Tahoe Forest office, the group visited Sagehen for a field trip to examine some of the issues, somewhat constrained by snowy roads.

Later meetings will focus discussion on what actual treatments [or not] will be best for each area. The next meeting date is currently being worked out on Doodle.


The PowerPoint presentations from the meeting are available for download here [105 MB].

Or watch movies made from the PowerPoints here.

Jeff Brown's introduction to Sagehen slideshow:

50+ Years of Sagehen from F. Felix on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

American (Pine) Marten research in Sagehen basin.

The Sagehen basin and adjacent areas have been the focus of pine marten research since the 1970's, making the marten an indicator for monitoring changes to the basin forest.

The following are some theses resulting from this long-term research:

  1. Moriarty, K. M., American Marten Distributions over a 28 Year Period: Relationships with Landscape Change in Sagehen Creek Experimental Forest, California, USA. 2009, Master's thesis, OSU.
  2. Martin, S.K., "The ecology of the Pine Marten (Martes americana) at Sagehen Creek, California." 1987, Ph.D. thesis, UCB.
  3. Zielinski, W.J., "Food habits, activity patterns, and ectoparasites of the pine marten at Sagehen Creek, California." 1981, Masters thesis, UCB.
  4. Spencer, W.D., "Pine marten habitat preference at Sagehen Creek, California." 1981, Master's thesis, UCB. 
  5. Simon, "Ecology study of the marten in Tahoe National Forest." 1980, Master's thesis, Sacramento State University.

Selected additional journal publications related to Sagehen marten research:
There are more publication references related to Sagehen marten research on our Publications pages.

Sagehen wolverine discovery.

The journal Northwest Science published a research paper by Katie Moriarty, et al about the Sagehen wolverine.

The article tells the story of the discovery of the wolverine during her American marten survey, as well as the fascinating methods used to confirm the animal's species, gender, population source, and personal range.

Here's another article about a sighting of the wolverine, and a video of the animal.

More recent information about the Sagehen wolverine.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sustainable management of fire-dependent forests

8-13-09: For Sagehen Speaker Series no. 26, Dr. Malcolm North discusses a new, multi-discipline publication from the Forest Service PSW, "An Ecosystem Management Strategy for Sierran Mixed-Conifer Forests" (GTR-220). The report is also available here [PDF].

*Update: GTR-237 is out!

More info about forest fire research at Sagehen.

Sustainable management of fire-dependent forests. from F. Felix on Vimeo.

Forest resiliency & SPLATs research at Sagehen

7-24-08: For Sagehen Speaker Series no. 21, Professor John Battles discusses how we can convert our precious western national forests back into resilient, naturally-functioning ecosystems using Strategically Placed Area Treatments [SPLATs].

Forest Resiliency & SPLATs Research at Sagehen. from F. Felix on Vimeo.

SPLAT-related thesis completed

Nicole Vaillant completed her Ph.D. thesis at Sagehen in 2008: Sagehen Experimental Forest Past, Present, and Future: An Evaluation of the Fireshed Assessment Process.

The study evaluates the Sagehen basin fire history, uses high resolution aerial laser mapping & an extensive dataset of actual fuel & vegetation measurements at hundreds of sites in the basin to compare fire models, & evaluates different possible SPLAT treatments. Strategically Placed Land Area Treatments (SPLATs) are a way of restructuring the forest to interrupt fire behavior, restore resiliency & more closely approximate natural forest structure.

Here's an excerpt from the thesis introduction:

"The first chapter investigates the past through a fire history reconstruction of lower elevation Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi) and Jeffrey pine – mixed conifer stands within Sagehen. Using fire perimeter maps and dendrochronology, the historic fire regime (frequency and seasonality) was determined. This chapter explores the influence of Native American land use practices, Comstock Era logging, fire suppression and climate indices (Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Palmer Drought Severity Index) on the fire regime at Sagehen.

The second chapter focuses on the present comparing three geographic information system (GIS) data sets utilized in the fireshed assessment process available for Sagehen. Eight GIS data layers are required to model fire behavior in FlamMap (Finney 2006), a landscape-level fire behavior and propagation model. The eight layers required include: elevation, slope, aspect, canopy cover, canopy base height, canopy height, canopy bulk density and fuel model. The three GIS data sets being compared in this chapter included:
1) data created using LiDAR and plot information for Sagehen,
2) pre-existing Landscape Fire and Resource Management Planning Tools Project (Landfire) data (Ryan et al. 2006), and
3) pre-existing Tahoe National Forest Stewardship and Fireshed Assessment data (Bahro et al. 2007).

The three GIS data sets were evaluated against the extensive grid of fuel and vegetation plots to test the correlation of canopy cover, fuel model, canopy base height, canopy height and canopy bulk density to current conditions. Modeled fire behavior metrics (fire type, flame length and fireline intensity) were compared between the three GIS data sets to better understand the implications of different source data on management decisions made during the fireshed assessment process.

The third chapter will again concentrate on the present comparing six SPLAT treatment plans created for Sagehen. Four of the plans were created by the Tahoe National Forest in conjunction with University of California, Berkeley using the fireshed assessment process. These four plans take into account accessibility, cost, landownership and ecological objectives. The second two plans were theoretical. The first is based on the pattern outlined by the fundamental research on the SPLAT theory (Finney 2001). This plan does not consider any of the above limitations. The second was created using the treatment optimization model within FlamMap (Finney 2007). This SPLAT plan excludes areas not available for treatment including watercourse protection zones, archeological sites and locations protected for sensitive or endangered plant and animal species. Potential fire behavior metrics (fire type, flame length, fireline intensity and arrival time) were modeled in FlamMap to evaluate the effectiveness of the six SPLAT plans.

The fourth chapter assesses the longevity of treatment effectiveness to reduce potential fire behavior for one of the fireshed assessment SPLAT treatments into the future. A forest vegetation growth simulator was utilized to model natural regeneration and growth of trees in Sagehen from 2005 through 2055 for the untreated and treated landscapes. Modeled fire behavior (fire type, flame length and fireline intensity) was used to assess the effectiveness of the treated landscape compared to the untreated landscape from 2005 to 2055.

There is much to be gained by integrating the past, present and future of Sagehen Experimental Forest into a spatial and temporal evaluation of the fireshed assessment and SPLATs. To my knowledge, no other watershed has the amount of information available for such a detailed analysis. Nor has there been a detailed evaluation of proposed SPLAT treatments created through the fireshed process. This study would be a first for both SPLAT placement and fireshed analysis, and should be of great value to land managers."

Carolyn Crane interviews SPLAT researchers

August, 2005: Carolyn Crane interviews Sagehen researchers about "Strategically Placed Land Area Treatments (SPLATs)" being studied as a strategy to alter forest fire behavior.


Friday, May 7, 2010


The Sagehen Experimental Forest is likely going to see big changes in the near future.

UC Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station, Tahoe National Forest & the Pacific Southwest Research Station have been studying the Sagehen basin condition with an eye to acting to restore the natural resiliency that protects a healthy forest from destructive insects, fire, disease, water quality loss & other threats.

Continuing Sagehen's 60-year legacy of research & education depends on maintaining as naturally functioning & sustainable an ecosystem as possible, so we hope to correct the existing imbalances within the basin. If we are successful, Sagehen can serve as a model for thousands of acres of western forest with similar problems.

This blog is a place for us to post information about this project as we work with stakeholders & interested parties to come up with an acceptable forest treatment strategy. Let us know how we're doing by using the comments section on each post, or by getting in touch.