* ">
International Journal of Wildland Fire International Journal of Wildland Fire Society
Journal of the International Association of Wildland Fire
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Fire history of the San Francisco East Bay region and implications for landscape patterns*

Jon E. Keeley

U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, Sequoia-Kings Canyon Field Station, Three Rivers, CA 93271-9651, USA; and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA. Telephone: +1 559 565 3170; fax: +1 559 565 3177; email: jon_keeley@usgs.gov

International Journal of Wildland Fire 14(3) 285-296 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF05003
Submitted: 5 January 2004  Accepted: 5 July 2005   Published: 12 September 2005

Abstract

The San Francisco East Bay landscape is a rich mosaic of grasslands, shrublands and woodlands that is experiencing losses of grassland due to colonization by shrubs and succession towards woodland associations. The instability of these grasslands is apparently due to their disturbance-dependent nature coupled with 20th century changes in fire and grazing activity. This study uses fire history records to determine the potential for fire in this region and for evidence of changes in the second half of the 20th century that would account for shrubland expansion. This region has a largely anthropogenic fire regime with no lightning-ignited fires in most years. Fire suppression policy has not excluded fire from this region; however, it has been effective at maintaining roughly similar burning levels in the face of increasing anthropogenic fires, and effective at decreasing the size of fires. Fire frequency parallels increasing population growth until the latter part of the 20th century, when it reached a plateau. Fire does not appear to have been a major factor in the shrub colonization of grasslands, and cessation of grazing is a more likely immediate cause. Because grasslands are not under strong edaphic control, rather their distribution appears to be disturbance-dependent, and natural lightning ignitions are rare in the region, I hypothesize that, before the entrance of people into the region, grasslands were of limited extent. Native Americans played a major role in creation of grasslands through repeated burning and these disturbance-dependent grasslands were maintained by early European settlers through overstocking of these range lands with cattle and sheep. Twentieth century reduction in grazing, coupled with a lack of natural fires and effective suppression of anthropogenic fires, have acted in concert to favor shrubland expansion.

Additional keywords: anthropogenic fire regime; California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection; fire climate; fire suppression; grasslands; lightning-ignited fires; Native American burning; shrublands.


References

Archer S (1994) Woodland plant encroachment into southwestern grasslands and savannas: rates, patterns and proximate causes. In ‘Ecological implications of livestock herbivory in the west’. (Eds M Vavra, WA Laycock, RD Pieper) pp. 13–68. (Society for Range Management: Denver, CO)

Bean LJ , Lawton HW (1973) Some explanations for the rise of cultural complexity in native California with comments on proto-agriculture and agriculture. In ‘Patterns of Indian burning in California: ecology and ethnohistory’. (Ed. HT Lewis) pp. v–xlvii. (Ballena Press: Menlo Park, CA)

Bond WJ Woodward FI Midgley GF 2005 The global distribution of ecosystems in a world without fire. New Phytologist 165 525 538 doi:10.1111/J.1469-8137.2004.01252.X

Brown PM Swetnam TW 1994 A cross-dated fire history from coast redwood near Redwood National Park, California. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 24 21 31

Burcham LT (1957) ‘California range land: An historic-ecological study of the range resources of California.’ (State of California, Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry: Sacramento)

Clar CR (1959) ‘California government and forestry from Spanish days until creation of the Department of Natural Resources in 1927.’ (State of California, Department of Natural Resources: Sacramento)

Clarke WC (1959) The vegetation cover of the San Francisco Bay region in the early Spanish period. MA Thesis, University of California, Berkeley.

Cook SF 1957 The aboriginal population of Alameda and Contra Costa counties, California. Anthropological Records 16 131 156


Cooper WS (1922) ‘The broad-sclerophyll vegetation of California. An ecological study of the chaparral and its related communities.’ Carnegie Institution of Washington, Publication No. 319.

Da Silva PG Bartolome JW 1984 Interaction between a shrub, Baccharis pilularis subsp. consanguinea (Asteraceae), and an annual grass, Bromus mollis (Poaceae) in coastal California. Madroño 31 93 101


DeNier FL (1928) Robert Livermore and the development of Livermore Valley to 1860. MA Thesis, University of California, Berkeley.

Edwards SW 1990 The East Bay’s richest grassland: A Pleistocene relict? Four Seasons 8 4 23 32


Edwards SW 1992 Observations on the prehistory and ecology of grazing in California. Fremonita 20 3 11


Edwards SW 1995 Notes on grazing and native plants in central California. Four Seasons 10 61 66


Edwards S 2002 A botanical exploration of the Tilden Park Area of San Pablo Ridge, Contra Costa County, CA. Four Seasons 11 4 3 52


Edwards SW Havlik N 1984 Some natural bunchgrass preserves in the San Francisco Bay Area. Four Seasons 7 5 14


Elliott HW III, Wehausen JD 1974 Vegetational succession on coastal rangeland of Point Reyes Peninsula. Madroño 22 231 238


Finney MA Martin RE 1989 Fire history in a Sequoia sempervirens forest at Salt point State Park, California. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 10 1451 1457


Gallagher N (2004) ‘Thousands of invasive trees cleared in UC Berkeley fire project.’ University of California, Berkeley, Press Release, 21 September 2004.

Gibbens RP , Heady HF (1964) ‘The influence of modern man on the vegetation of Yosemite Valley.’ (Division of Agricultural Sciences, University of California: Berkeley)

Gruell GE (1983) ‘Fire and vegetative trends in the northern Rockies. Interpretations from 1871–1982 photographs.’ USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station General Technical Report INT-158. Odgen, UT.

Hamilton JG 1997 Changing perceptions of pre-European grasslands in California. Madroño 44 311 333


Harris MR (1927) A grazing management plan for the Berkeley Hills. MS Thesis, University of California, Berkeley.

Heady HF , Child RD (1994) ‘Rangeland ecology and management.’ (Westview Press: San Francisco)

Hobbs RJ Mooney HA 1986 Community changes following shrub invasion of grassland. Oecologia 70 508 513
doi:10.1007/BF00379896

Holstein G 2001 Pre-agricultural grassland in central California. Madroño 48 253 264

Hopkinson PJM (2003) Native bunchgrass diversity patterns and phytolith deposits as indicators of fragmentation and change in California Coast Range grassland. PhD Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

Hornbeck D (1983) ‘California patterns: a geographical and historical atlas.’ (California State University: Northridge)

Huenneke LF (1989) Distribution and regional patterns of Californian grasslands. In ‘Grassland structure and function: California annual grasslands’. (Eds LF Huenneke, HA Mooney) pp. 1–12. (Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht)

Jacobs DF Cole DW McBride JR 1985 Fire history and perpetuation of natural coast redwood ecosystems. Journal of Forestry 83 494 497


Jones TL (1992) Settlement trends along the California coast. In ‘Essays on the prehistory of maritime California’. (Ed. TL Jones) pp. 1–37. (Center for Archaeological Research, University of California: Davis)

Keeley JE (1982) Distribution of lightning and man-caused wildfires in California. In ‘Proceedings of the symposium on dynamics and management of Mediterranean-type ecosystems’. (Eds CE Conrad, WC Oechel) pp. 431–437. USDA Forest Service, Pacific South-west Forest and Range Experiment Station General Technical Report PSW-58. Berkeley, CA.

Keeley JE (1990) The California valley grassland. In ‘Endangered plant communities of southern California’. (Ed. AA Schoenberg) pp. 2–23. (Southern California Botanists: Fullerton, CA)

Keeley JE 2002 Native American impacts on fire regimes of the California coastal ranges. Journal of Biogeography 29 303 320
doi:10.1046/J.1365-2699.2002.00676.X

Keeley JE Rundel PH 2005 Fire and the Miocene expansion of C4 grasslands. Ecology Letters 8 683 690 doi:10.1111/J.1461-0248.2005.00767.X

Keeley JE Fotheringham CJ Morais M 1999 Reexamining fire suppression impacts on brushland fire regimes. Science 284 1829 1832 doi:10.1126/SCIENCE.284.5421.1829

Lewis HT (1973) ‘Patterns of Indian burning in California: ecology and ethnohistory.’ (Ballena Press: Ramona, CA)

Martin PS (1984) Prehistoric overkill: the global modal. In ‘Quaternary extinctions: a prehistoric revolution’. (Eds PS Martin, RG Klein) pp. 354–403. (University of Arizona Press: Tucson)

Martin RE Sapsis DB (1995) A synopsis of large or disastrous wildland fires. In ‘The Biswell symposium: fire issues and solutions in urban interface and wildland ecosystems’. (Eds DR Weise, RE Martin) pp. 35–38. USDA Forest Service, General Technical Report PSW-GTR-158. Washington, DC.

Mayfield DW (1978) Ecology of the pre-Spanish San Francisco Bay area. MA Thesis, San Francisco State University, San Francisco.

McBride JR (1964) Invasion of East Bay Regional Parks grassland by Baccharis pilularis DC. MS Thesis, University of California, Berkeley.

McBride JR (1970) Plant succession in the Berkeley Hills. PhD Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

McBride JR 1974 Plant succession in the Berkeley Hills, California. Madroño 22 317 380

McBride JR Heady HF 1968 Invasion of grassland by Baccharis pilularis DC. Journal of Range Management 21 106 108


McMinn HE (1916) The vegetation of Hamilton Gulch, California. MA Thesis, University of California, Berkeley.

Nichols R, Adams T , Menke J (1984) Shrubland management for livestock forage. In ‘Shrublands in California literature review and research needed for management’. pp. 104–121. Contribution No. 191. (Water Resources Center, University of California: Davis)

Pyne SJ (1995) ‘World fire.’ (Henry Holt: New York)

Roof J 1971 Growing California's field wildflowers. Four Seasons 3 4 2 24


Russell WH , McBride JR (2002) Vegetation change and fire hazard in the San Francisco Bay area open space. In ‘Proceedings of the California’s 2001 wildfire conference: ten years after the East Bay Hills Fire; October 10–12, 2001, Oakland, CA’. (Eds KS Blonski, ME Morales, TJ Morales) pp. 27–32. Technical Report 35.01.462. (University of California Forest Products Laboratory: Richmond)

Russell W Tompkins R 2005 Estimating biomass in coastal Baccharis pilularis dominated plant communities. Fire Ecology 1 20 27


Safford HD 1995 Woody vegetation and succession in the Garin Woods, Hayward Hills, Alameda County, California. Madroño 42 470 489


Sampson AW (1944) ‘Plant succession and burned chaparral lands in northern California.’ Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 685. (University of California: Berkeley)

Sampson AW (1952) ‘Range management. Principles and practices.’ (John Wiley & Sons: New York)

Sampson AW , Jespersen BS (1963) ‘California range brushlands and browse plants.’ Agricultural Experiment Station Manual 33. (University of California: Berkeley)

Stephens SL Fry DL 2005 Fire history in coast redwood stands in the northeastern Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Fire Ecology 1 2 19


Timbrook J Johnson JR Earle DD 1982 Vegetation burning by the Chumash. Journal of California and Great Basin Anthropology 4 163 186


Wells PV 1962 Vegetation in relation to geological substratum and fire in the San Luis Obispo quadrangle, California. Ecological Monographs 32 79 103


Westerling AL Gershunov A Cayan DR Barnett TP 2002 Long lead statistical forecasts of area burned in western U.S. wildfires by ecosystem province. International Journal of Wildland Fire 11 257 266
doi:10.1071/WF02009

Wilkinson L , Blank G , Gruber C (1996) ‘Desktop data analysis with SYSTAT.’ (Prentice Hall: Upper Saddle River, NJ)

Williams K Hobbs RJ Hamburg SP 1987 Invasion of an annual grassland in northern California by Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea. Oecologia 72 461 465 doi:10.1007/BF00377580



Export Citation Cited By (23)