Saturday, July 26, 2014

The fire ecology of pre-historic California

Article: Fire ecology manipulation by California native cultures
California native cultures burned patches of forest in deliberate sequence to diversify the resources available within their region. The first year after a fire brought sprouts for forage and basketry. In 3 to 5 years, shrubs produced a wealth of berries. Mature trees remained for the acorn harvest, but burning also made way for the next generation of trees, to ensure a consistent future crop. Opening the landscape improved game and travel, and created sacred spaces.

"They were aware of the succession, so they staggered burns by 5 to 10 years to create mosaics of forest in different stages, which added a lot of diversity for a short proximity area of the same forest type," Lake said. "Complex tribal knowledge of that pattern across the landscape gave them access to different seral stages of soil and vegetation when tribes made their seasonal rounds."
It is known that the East Coast tribes practiced this kind of manipulation. Some places, like the "pine barrens" of New Jersey and Long Island, were obvious. The pines would have been out-competed by oaks and other trees fairly quickly if the barrens were not burned over regularly.

The fascinating thing about this for me is the depth of knowledge still available. In the East Coast, this was lost due the destruction, and even extinction, of the local tribes.

Apparently, restoring the fire ecology of some of these areas would also restore some of the salmon runs.

Another thing, the ecology of pre-historic North America was not "wild." It was manipulated by human beings for the benefit of human beings.

There is a "pernicious paradigm" that Western colonists destroyed the wild and natural ecology of the Americas. Sorry, it had already happened.

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