Date of Award

12-2012

Degree Name

MS in Forestry Sciences

Department

Natural Resources Management

Advisor

Richard P. Thompson

Abstract

ABSTRACT

MORTALITY ASSESSMENT OF REDWOOD AND MIXED CONIFER FOREST

TYPES IN SANTA CRUZ COUNTY FOLLOWING WILDFIRE

By Steve R. Auten

On August 12, 2009, the Lockheed Fire ignited the west slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains burning approximately 7,819 acres. Foresters and other land managers were left with challenging decisions on how to evaluate tree mortality. Big Creek Lumber Company, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly)’s Swanton Pacific Ranch (SPR), and other resource professionals familiar with this region teamed up to develop a method for evaluating damage and thereby mortality for redwood, California nutmeg, live oak, tanoak, California bay, Pacific madrone, big leaf maple, Douglas-fir, Monterey pine, and knobcone pine. Quantitative damage criteria were used to design three Mortality Assessment models (MA), divided into three diameter at breast height classes (1-8.9, 9-16.9, >17 inches), for all tree species. These models were compared against pre-fire data from 82, one-fifth acre fixed plots from SPR’s Continuous Forest Inventory. Since the initial evaluation using the new MA in Fall 2009, each of the 2,877 trees were re-evaluated in Spring 2010 and Spring 2011 to determine if initial evaluations from the MA in 2009 were correct. To date, predictions to determine individual tree mortality using the Mortality Assessment models have been 89.3% correct.

Keywords: redwood, conifer, hardwood, mortality