Documenting nature's rebound on our 3,200 acre preserve

Fire has been an integral part of California ecosystems for millennia, and this has been verily illustrated by the incredible rebound of plant and animal communities at Pepperwood's 3,200 acre preserve in the wake of the Tubbs and Kincade Fires. After the initial Tubbs firestorm scorched the lower 500 acres of Pepperwood the night of October 8th, the fire continued to move across the landscape—much more slowly for the most part—ultimately burning over 90% of the preserve. Two years later, the Kincade firestorm burned through 60% of the preserve. Cal Fire and first responders established firebreaks across our 3,200-acre open space preserve to contain the conflagration so that it didn’t spread into urban areas – illustrating safety as an important argument for open space conservation under the threat of intensifying wildfire seasons to come.

In the wake of two fires in two years, it can be tempting to view wildfire as a singly destructive phenomenon. But as we are learning, fire at lower intensities can provide many benefits to our Mediterranean ecosystem. In fact, some of our native plant species even require fire for reproduction. Understanding this dynamic, California Indians put intentional fire on the land to stimulate these beneficial effects and to prevent uncontrollable firestorms for millennia prior to European colonization. Learn more about the impacts of wildfire in our five-part blog series Fire Ecology for Non-Scientists.

While coping with the tragic human impacts of the fire, the resiliency of nature can provide much needed inspiration. With time, we can see some of the many benefits of fire in the regeneration of plant species and in the rebound of animal life. Increasing our understanding of the longer term effects of fire help us to develop a better relationship with this phenomenon that is integral to our California ecosystem health. On this page you'll find a compilation of images and videos—many generously captured and shared by community members—that document the rebound of plant and animal life at Pepperwood after the 2017 Tubbs Fire and 2019 Kincade Fire respectively.

Post-fire recovery at Pepperwood

Photos taken November 2017 - May 2018 by Gerald and Buff Corsi, Focus on Nature, Inc.

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Phenocam timelapse videos

These videos are compiled from photos taken once per day by phenocams at Pepperwood. The cameras are part of a long-term study by the UC Berkeley Ackerly Lab that is monitoring the recovery of plants and plant communities in the wake of the Tubbs Fire. The study will explore how several species of interest—including oaks, coyote brush, and Douglas-fir—were impacted by the fire and how their populations may change in the months and years after the habitat disturbance caused by the fire.

Reflecting on a wonderful wildflower season

In the wake of the fires some of the most brilliant wildflower displays we've ever seen bloomed at Pepperwood! As many of you who have taken part in hikes, classes, and wildflower walks here this spring can attest to, it has been nothing short of awe-inspiring to watch nature rebound.

Photos taken Spring 2018 by Gerald and Buff Corsi, Focus on Nature, Inc.

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Walk among the wildflowers

Please take a moment to celebrate the power of nature and commemorate a beautiful spring by watching this short video created by long-time Pepperwood supporters Buff and Gerald Corsi. It features a wildflower walk led by Pepperwood Academic Director Emeritus Steve Barnhart, and Pepperwood Steward (and Steve’s lovely wife) Linda Barnhart.

 

Check back soon for more content!