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Posts Tagged: Woodland

Attention to oak woodland conservation does not wane amid COVID-19 crisis

California oak woodlands are highly prized ecoregions where stately trees, many of them hundreds of years old, are cornerstones of a habitat for wildlife and native plants. Sadly, some of these ecosystems are seriously threatened by exotic pests and diseases, encroachment by less desirable vegetation, and wildfire.

Each year, UC Cooperative Extension hosts workshops to share scientific developments aimed at conserving these important habitats – and the economic value of ranching – on oak woodlands, which are found on the lower elevation slopes of the Sierra Nevada, the Coast Range and other foothill areas of California.

Typically, the workshops are held in person and draw moderate-sized audiences for presentations, questions and answers, and field trips. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's workshop was offered online in April with pre-recorded presentations available for viewing at the participants' convenience and a live question-and-answer session on Zoom.

The retooled event garnered 500 registrants, over 300 views of the YouTube videos and 140 participants in the live Q&A session. The presentations and Q&A session are still available online for future viewing as well at http://cemendocino.ucanr.edu/Forestry/Workshops/California_Oak_Health.

“People from all walks of life participated, including those with professional and personal interest in oak woodlands,” said Yana Valachovic, UCCE forest advisor in Humboldt and Del Norte counties and a conference organizer.

UCCE research on the impact of conifer encroachment helped facilitate policy changes that make it easier for California landowners to remove conifers from oak woodlands. (Photo: Yana Valachovich)

Presentations at the 2020 conference included the following topics:

Encroachment by Douglas-fir

In Northern California, the biodiversity of oak woodlands is being threatened by Douglas-fir encroachment. The oaks' shade helps the young conifers get established with protection from harsh sun. In time, the fast-growing Douglas-fir trees pierce the oak canopies and begin to crowd out the areas' native understories, which are important for the diversity of birds, mammals and reptiles attracted to oaks.

As the Douglas-fir continue to grow and multiply, they threaten the very lives of the oak trees and the unique ecosystem they dominate.

To better understand the Douglas-fir encroachment, Valachovic established 10 research sites in Humboldt and Mendocino counties to gather information about the fate and the age of oaks. She and her research partners determined the ages of the oaks and firs, and counted the seedlings, saplings, snags and understory vegetation.

“With this research, we were able to demonstrate that even though the oak trees can be smaller in diameter, they are much older than the Douglas-fir trees,” Valachovic said. “The encroachment process is happening quickly, and the oaks are falling out of the system.”

The shift appears to have been initiated in the mid-19th and early-20th centuries, coinciding with the Gold Rush and wildfire suppression.

With the data confirming Douglas-fir encroachment, Valachovic turned her attention to oak woodland restoration. At 14 sites in Humboldt and Trinity counties, her team studied the effects of Douglas-fir removal.

“Grasses and forbs under the oaks reestablished. Diameter growth on the oaks increased,” she said.

These research findings contributed directly to changes in policy that had previously limited landowners' ability to remove and sell conifers encroaching on oak woodland. The research also helped create new funding opportunities to support oak woodland restoration and conservation in Northern California.

The River Fire, which burned through much of the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center in 2018, provided many opportunities to study the regenerative aspects of fire on oak woodland.

Case study of oak woodland wildfire recovery

In July 2018, about two-thirds of the 5,289-acre UC Hopland Research and Extension Center was burned by the River Fire.

The transformation of the land, which had likely been without a large wildland fire for at least 100 years, was intense and stressful, said UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor Michael Jones. However, it also provided a unique opportunity for researchers to compare the impact of wildfire on the resiliency of vegetation on grazed and ungrazed oak woodland.

Jones established 35 one-fifth acre research plots at the research center and collected data two months following the fire and one year later. The research will continue in the future to better understand long-term impacts, but Jones was able to share revealing early results at the workshop.

Right after the fire, in severely burned areas areas, the future of the oaks looked ominous. Jones predicted 40% tree mortality.

“The oaks were exposed to persistent, intense heat. They were cooked,” he said. “But two months after the fire, we were already seeing basal sprouts. This was an amazing response by the trees. Oaks are pretty damn tough.”

A year after the fire, surveys showed that tree mortality in the burned areas was 25%, much less than Jones' early predictions. While some management for specific situations in severely burned areas may be necessary – such as removal of hazard trees, reducing fuels in defensible spaces or removal to control invasive species – the results of this work show the trees recover naturally.

“Esthetically, I know these systems aren't as pleasing as they were before, but ecologically, they are healthy and recovering,” he said. “In 100 years, it will look just as good as before the fire.”

John Bailey, right, director of the UC Hopland Research and Extension, speaks with UC ANR vice provost Mark Lagrimini where fire impact was evident shortly after the fire. The pasture on the left of the fence was grazed, the area on the right was not grazed.

Fire impacts in woodland areas previously grazed and not grazed

The fire on the research station also permitted Jones to compare the fire's differing impact on non-grazed and grazed oak woodland. At first, the grazed areas looked almost unscathed with minimal flame scorching on the bark, while an area where the pasture hadn't been grazed for 25 years had evidence of much higher severity fire.

“Grazing is a phenomenal way to help manage fuels,” Jones said. However, the grazed areas displayed ecological shortcomings a year later.

“In grazed pastures, the large mature trees were still alive, but there was no oak regeneration (basal sprouting or seedlings),” Jones said. “In the ungrazed area, a lot of biomass had been killed, but there's nearly 100% resprout of oak trees and we have an impressive amount of oak seedling recruitment.”

Jones said he isn't discouraging grazing.

“But it is important to protect sites from grazing, and especially wildlife browse, when a landowner or land managers' objectives are to regenerate or conserve oak woodlands,” Jones said.

A ball point pen points to a Mediterranean Oak Borer, indicating its tiny size.

New ambrosia beetle another threat to California oaks

Akif Eskalen, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant Pathology at UC Davis, has identified a new insect-fungus team that causes oak borer wilt in Northern California Valley and Blue Oaks. It is an ambrosia beetle, commonly known as Mediterranean Oak Borer, which carries several fungi in its mouth. The beetle bores into the tree and introduces fungi to grow for food. The fungi spreads and disturbs the transportation of water and nutrients, causing wilt in the tree.

The oozing and staining lesions on the bark are similar to other oak fungal diseases, such as sudden oak death. The beetle – native of Mediterranean basin countries in Africa, Asia and Europe – cannot fly far, so most likely is transported for long distances on infested firewood.

During the workshop, Eskalen suggested not moving firewood, removing heavily infested trees and chipping infested wood into 1-inch particles to reduce the spread of the ambrosia beetle and its fungal partner. He asked viewers to report any suspected oak tree infestations to the local agricultural commissioner, CDFA Diagnostic Laboratories, UC Cooperative Extension advisors or CALFIRE. Chemical options for sparing oaks from the ambrosia beetles' devastation are under investigation.

A botanical specimen of Ione manzanita, a federally listed threatened species, is susceptible to root rot caused by introduced Phytophthora in its natural range. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
 

Threats to oaks and other native plants from root rotting Phytophthora

Restoration plantings have inadvertently introduced plant pathogens to native oak woodland  ecosystems in California, said Ted Swiecki of Phytosphere Research, an organization that provides consulting services related to natural resource management, horticulture, urban forestry and agriculture. The group of pathogens causing the damage are largely from the Phytophthora genus, first described in the 1860s. The name translates from Greek to “plant destroyer.” 

Swiecki has observed when Phytophthora infested plants and soils are introduced to native habitats, the pathogens can attack various native plants, including toyon, madrone, manzanita and full-grown oaks. Once established, the pathogen can spread along drainages, by moving soil from one area to another and by hitchhiking on equipment, tires and hiking boots.

The pathogen can easily be overlooked at nurseries, which, by their nature, have conditions that favor Phytophthora development. Plants at nurseries are well watered, have high root density and are often placed on the ground where they can pick up pathogens.

He said the best approach to tackling Phytophthora is not using nursery stock for restoration or beautification of natural oak woodland. Direct seeding, using natural regeneration, or onsite propagation are safer ways to enhance vegetation in oak woodland.

“It's easier to prevent Phytophthora from being introduced in the first place and much cheaper and more effective than trying to eradicate it later,” Siewcki said.

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2020 at 8:35 AM
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

Another Casualty of the Coronavirus Pandemic: California Honey Festival

Miss Honey Bee (Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeeper Program) waves at the crowd at the 2019 California Honey Festival, while a curious youngster wonders what this is all about. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic: the annual California Honey Festival, which was scheduled May 2 in historic downtown Woodland. This...

Miss Honey Bee (Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeeper Program) waves at the crowd at the 2019 California Honey Festival, while a curious youngster wonders what this is all about. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Miss Honey Bee (Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeeper Program) waves at the crowd at the 2019 California Honey Festival, while a curious youngster wonders what this is all about. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Miss Honey Bee (Wendy Mather, program manager of the California Master Beekeeper Program) waves at the crowd at the 2019 California Honey Festival, while a curious youngster wonders what this is all about. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey tasting, compliments of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, is a popular activity at the California Honey Festival, but that will have to wait until next year. Third from left is Amina Harris, director of UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. In the middle is beekeeper Sharon Schmidt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Honey tasting, compliments of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, is a popular activity at the California Honey Festival, but that will have to wait until next year. Third from left is Amina Harris, director of UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. In the middle is beekeeper Sharon Schmidt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Honey tasting, compliments of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, is a popular activity at the California Honey Festival, but that will have to wait until next year. Third from left is Amina Harris, director of UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center. In the middle is beekeeper Sharon Schmidt. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Z Specialty Foods of Woodland kept busy at the first three California Honey Festivals. Now the company is offering honey
Z Specialty Foods of Woodland kept busy at the first three California Honey Festivals. Now the company is offering honey "care packages." The family of Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, owns and operates the business. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Z Specialty Foods of Woodland kept busy at the first three California Honey Festivals. Now the company is offering honey "care packages." The family of Amina Harris, director of the UC Davis Honey and Pollination Center, owns and operates the business. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, shown here with a bee frame at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, is a key part of the California Honey Festival. This year's event is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, shown here with a bee frame at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, is a key part of the California Honey Festival. This year's event is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño, shown here with a bee frame at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis, is a key part of the California Honey Festival. This year's event is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Monday, April 13, 2020 at 4:51 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Economic Development, Environment, Family, Food, Health, Innovation, Natural Resources, Pest Management, Yard & Garden

The Bee Tent at the California Honey Festival Was All the Buzz

Large crowds gathered around Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño as she opened a bee hive at the California Honey Festival and talked about bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

If you attended the second annual California Honey Festival, held recently in downtown Woodland, you probably heard the buzz. Or at least you saw...

Large crowds gathered around Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño as she opened a bee hive at the California Honey Festival and talked about bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Large crowds gathered around Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño as she opened a bee hive at the California Honey Festival and talked about bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Large crowds gathered around Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño as she opened a bee hive at the California Honey Festival and talked about bees. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Festival-goers marveled at Elina Lastro Niño's live bee demonstration. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Festival-goers marveled at Elina Lastro Niño's live bee demonstration. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Festival-goers marveled at Elina Lastro Niño's live bee demonstration. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

With the hive open in the foreground, Elina Lastro Niño talks to festival-goers. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
With the hive open in the foreground, Elina Lastro Niño talks to festival-goers. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

With the hive open in the foreground, Elina Lastro Niño talks to festival-goers. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

California Honey Festival attendees got this view, as Elina Lastro Niño held out a frame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
California Honey Festival attendees got this view, as Elina Lastro Niño held out a frame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

California Honey Festival attendees got this view, as Elina Lastro Niño held out a frame. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Expressions ranged from awestruck to delight to excitement as a drone was passed around. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Expressions ranged from awestruck to delight to excitement as a drone was passed around. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Expressions ranged from awestruck to delight to excitement as a drone was passed around. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, May 17, 2018 at 5:23 PM
Focus Area Tags: Agriculture, Economic Development, Family, Natural Resources, Yard & Garden

So, Sweet! The Inaugural California Honey Festival in Historic Downtown Woodland

A taste of honey. From the comb to the bottle, that's the route of honey to the California Honey Festival on Saturday, May 6. (Photo by Kath

It promises to be...oh, so sweet! The inaugural California Honey Festival, to take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, May 6 on a four-block...

A taste of honey. From the comb to the bottle, that's the route of honey to the California Honey Festival on Saturday, May 6. (Photo by Kath
A taste of honey. From the comb to the bottle, that's the route of honey to the California Honey Festival on Saturday, May 6. (Photo by Kath

A taste of honey. From the comb to the bottle, that's the route of honey to the California Honey Festival on Saturday, May 6. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee foraging on almond blossoms in Yolo County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee foraging on almond blossoms in Yolo County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee foraging on almond blossoms in Yolo County. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Posted on Thursday, May 4, 2017 at 5:30 PM
Tags: Amina Harris (70), Billy Synk (10), California Honey Festival (17), Elina Niño (22), Gene Brandi (4), honey (35), mead (10), music (3), Woodland (3)

California Assembly approved bill to protect oak woodlands

Encroaching conifers obscure a stand of oak in Redwood National Park.
The California State Assembly passed a bill unanimously that would provide new resources to landowners to halt the encroachment of conifers on oak woodland, reported Hunter Cresswell in the Times-Standard. The bill (AB 1958) must be approved by the State Senate and Gov. Brown before it becomes law.

Oak woodlands are "some of the most biodiverse ecosystems in the North West," said UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor Yana Valochovic. "They are preferentially used by a lot of different bird species."

In the past, fires would burn out conifers and underbrush on oak woodland annually, but aggressive fire suppression is enabling them to spread unchecked, crowding out oaks.

Yanachovic is finishing a three-year research project on conifer encroachment, and AB 1958, if passed, would put policies in place so people can get rid of the conifers without jumping through as many bureaucratic hoops as before, the article said.

“It clarifies that the cutting of younger conifers out of oak woodlands does not qualify as conversion of timberlands,” she said.

Posted on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 at 2:21 PM
 
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