Publication Date

Spring 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies


Will Russell


fire, redwood forest, resilience, resistance, Sequoia sempervirens

Subject Areas

Environmental Studies; Ecology; Forestry


The public perception of wildfire is that it destroys forests and that all fires should be quickly extinguished. However, fire plays a central role in determining structure, composition, and recruitment in many forest types. In coast redwood forests, the role of fire is not well understood, particularly in the southern part of the range. Observational data suggest that redwoods are relatively unaffected by fire. The sites of three 2008 and 2009 fires were sampled for this study: the Martin Fire in Bonny Doon, California, the Whitehurst Fire near Gilroy, California, and the Lockheed Fire near Swanton, California. Randomly selected ten-meter diameter plots were used to collect data on survivorship and post fire regeneration in order to determine the short-term response of Sequoia sempervirens to fire. Additionally, data were collected on associated tree species in order to compare mortality and regeneration between adjacent forest types. Data collected included mortality, tree height, diameter at breast height, scorch height, percent residual and regenerated canopy cover by species, and the number of basal spouts and seedlings by species. Results indicate that S. sempervirens had the lowest mortality levels, highest crown survival, and greatest regeneration, including canopy regeneration, basal sprouting, and seedling growth of all the species studied. Redwood basal sprouts and redwood seedlings far outnumbered those of associated tree species. However, there was great variability between sites. Variation may be due to differing soils, distance from the ocean, different land uses, fire severity, or a combination of factors.