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Ojai Valley Land Conservancy to Host Prescribed Burn for Ecological Restoration Research

By on June 21, 2023 in News

Ojai, CA 6/21/2023 – The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC) is collaborating on an ecological restoration research project aimed at assessing the effectiveness of prescribed burning and broadcast seeding in restoring native species richness and cover, reducing the density of invasive species, and maintaining a healthy ecosystem. The project will also evaluate the impact of prescribed burns on specific target species and investigate the long-term effects of consecutive burns and seeding.

The project, spanning multiple years, will be carried out on 40 acres split between two adjacent properties, Ventura River Steelhead Preserve (OVLC) and Nye Ranch. These properties are located west of Casitas Springs and the Ventura River and they share similar land use histories, including grazing and agriculture. Through meticulous monitoring and data collection, the researchers involved in the project aim to gain valuable insights into the restoration potential of these methods.

The first prescribed burn will be conducted on Thursday, June 22 and Friday, June 23.

Entities collaborating on this project include Ventura County Fire Department, Ventura County Prescribed Burn Association, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, Resource Conservation District (RCD), Ventura County Air Pollution Control District.

Please note that Ventura County Fire Department have allocated significant resources and personnel to be present on-scene to ensure the safety of all participants, neighboring residents and communities.

Beginning in 2023 and continuing until 2025, spring burns will be conducted at both properties during peak vegetative growth. The subsequent monitoring will be performed before each burn and in the spring of 2026, with a preference for continued monitoring until 2029 to assess the long-term impact of the prescribed burns and seeding on native species richness, density of invasive species, and overall vegetation composition. To ensure a robust experimental design, the project will employ a split-plot design with 3-4 replications/blocks at each site. Burned and unburned plots will be established at both properties, divided into seeded and unseeded treatment plots. The minimum plot size will be 10 by 30 meters to minimize edge effects, and a distance of at least 2 meters will separate the treatment areas.

Key variables that will be measured include the percentage cover of native and invasive forbs and grasses, as well as the percentage cover and density of species of interest, such as yellow star-thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), other thistles, black mustard (Brassica nigra), desirable natives, and seeded natives. The project will also assess native species richness and diversity, potentially utilizing diversity indices to analyze the data. Prior to each burn, crucial data on fuel and vegetation moisture, soil moisture, and temperature will be collected. Additionally, Tempilaq paint strips on metal tags will be strategically placed on the soil surface to measure temperature variations during the burn. Vegetation surveys will be conducted before each burn to capture accurate pre-burn conditions. To analyze the impact of the burns on the seed bank, samples will be collected before and after burning for later germination and analysis.

Several discussion topics and questions will be explored throughout the project, including the specific application of the seeding treatment, such as the method of broadcast seeding, seed volume, species selection, and whether seeding will occur every year or only in the initial year. Furthermore, the project will identify a comprehensive species list for the sites and determine which invasive species should be monitored alongside yellow star-thistle. Additional variables that may contribute to evaluating the restoration objectives will also be considered.

Prescribed burns have shown promising results in the short-term restoration efforts of ecosystems. However, understanding the long-term effects is crucial for sustainable management. The project aims to shed light on the evidence for both short-term and long-term impacts of prescribed fire, providing valuable insights into the ecological restoration practices employed by OVLC and other agencies/organizations in the region. OVLC is excited to embark on this important research endeavor and collaborate with experts and the local community to advance the understanding of ecological restoration and sustainable land management. The findings from this project will contribute to informed decision-making for future restoration efforts and the conservation of native species.

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  1. Elena Rios says:

    I am pleased to read about the prescribed burn and ecological restoration research. As this program continues to take shape, perhaps you would also be interested in exploring and sharing about the cultural component of how burning has/was always traditionally a part of being in relationship to land and place in California prior to colonization. How it improves the quality of basket weaving materials, how it improves food production of plants that are old and tangled, and subsequently benefit and grow back healthier after a burn. And there is so much more. Great changes have occurred since these traditional land stewardship practices were taken out of the landscape. And fine fuel carriers, such as non-native grasses were then introduced to the landscape. Some native communities are reclaiming these “Cultural Burning” practices in other regions of California. Thank you.

    • Nathan Wickstrum says:

      Hi Elena – Thank you for saying this and it’s such an important and valuable point. Moving forward, we absolutely want to open the discussion about traditional land stewardship, especially as it pertains to fire management. Thank you!