Saturday, July 30, 2011

Yosemite - Cutting the Trees to See the Forest

Park service to thin out Yosemite's growing crowds -- of trees
Reporting from Yosemite National Park -- National parks tend to be a tree hugger's paradise. Layers of federal laws, strict park service rules and even the disapproving scowls from some visitors prohibit so much as driving a nail into a tree, much less cutting one down.

But it's getting a bit crowded in Yosemite, where more than a hundred years of prompt firefighting have allowed towering pines and cedars to clog the park's meadows and valleys. These days, you can barely see the granite for the trees.

That's about to change. Yosemite National Park officials say thousands of trees will be felled to preserve the iconic views of the park's waterfalls and the craggy faces of El Capitan and Half Dome. The project is part of Yosemite's Scenic Vista Management Plan, approved by the park service's regional office this week.

Chain saws will be fired up in the fall, said Supt. Don Neubacher, aimed mainly at ponderosa pines and incense cedars. Rare or ecologically sensitive trees such as California black oaks, sugar pines and white bark pines will be spared. None of the park's thousand-year-old sequoias will be cut, nor will any trees more than 130 years old.
Yep, most of the forests in California are "fire climax", which is a fancy way of saying that occasional fires are necessary for them to maintain the  community.  In the case of Coast Redwoods and Giant Sequoia, for example, young redwoods will not grow in the forest floor of the mature redwood forest; there's not enough light, or enough nutrients in the soil.  However, once a good hot fire comes along, and opens up the sky and frees nutrients to the soil, they will grow in the ashes of their parents. 

Eventually, though, even selective cutting of the undergrowth trees will prove insufficient, as the old growth trees begin to die of old age and various traumas and disease, and there will be no young of those species to replace them.

Ultimately, the right thing to do is to allow fire to get in, and do it's work.  They let a large section of Yellowstone burn in 1988, and in the resulting severely burned areas, the parks characteristic Lodgepole Pine tree's seed's sprouted in the next 5 years.

No comments:

Post a Comment