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Individual Highlight

Restoring California Black Oaks Sustains Cultural and Ecological Values

Photo of Tribal acorn gatherers and scientists gather underneath an actively tended black oak tree near North Fork, California. Jonathan Long, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Tribal acorn gatherers and scientists gather underneath an actively tended black oak tree near North Fork, California. Jonathan Long, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.Snapshot : California black oaks are a treasured food source for many Native Americans, while also providing sustenance and habitat for numerous wildlife species. This cultural and ecological keystone species is threatened by high-intensity wildfires and encroachment of shade-tolerant conifer species. Intensive thinning and fire treatments to benefit black oaks can fit within a larger landscape strategy designed to increase forest resilience to wildfire and drought. A team of federal researchers and tribal members produced a synthesis report to inform restoration of degraded stands of California black oak.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Long, Jonathan W. 
Research Location : California
Research Station : Pacific Southwest Research Station (PSW)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 948

Summary

Mature California black oaks have a “Goldilocks” relationship with fire. A lack of fire (“too cool”) allows shade-tolerant conifers to crowd out the oaks, while more intense fire (“too hot”) typically kills the oak stems. Trees need many decades to grow large enough to produce acorns and large cavities used by animals such as fisher. Landscape alterations, either through the exclusion of fire or emergence of high-intensity, landscape-scale wildfires, are making it harder for California black oaks to thrive in their former abundance. A research team led by Forest Service ecologists Johnathan Long and Frank Lake, with partners from the North Fork Mono tribe, NRCS, UC Extension and Sierra National Forests, synthesized research on the values and opportunities associated with restoring California black oak. The report integrates tribal traditional ecological knowledge with findings from local agency projects and scientific studies regarding black oak and associated plants, fungi and wildlife. The report outlines a landscape-scale strategy that targets intensive thinning and fuels reduction to facilitate broader return of low-intensity fire, as was traditionally used by Native Americans.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Sierra National Forest
  • North Fork Mono Tribe
  • University of California Cooperative Extension