Student Experiments

Students from Mr. Bregar's spring field biology class do inital 1/100-acre plot inventories for proposed burning experiment, May, 2005 (Photo: N. Lapham)

June 8, 2006 Update: First DRAFT 2006 Student Key Plant Inventory. Initial publication of student inventory data.

December 27, 2005 Update: After making a field visit to the experimental burn site with Bob Zybach to help design an experimental plot system, and subsequently meeting with Bob to discuss the arrangement of the 20 GPS plot centers established by students in the fall, 2005, Dr. Benjamin Stout provided the Brandis Oaks study a detailed review with recommendations regarding long-term monitoring strategies.

Once the principal tasks in conversion from Douglas-fir forest to oak woodland have taken place (first two years), the next step will be to develop the tools and complete the tasks needed to achieve project goals over the mid-term (two to ten year) period.  Two formally-designed experiments are intended to dictate mid-term management actions: one designed to help establish burning schedules based on varying objectives (see Goal 8), and the other to efficiently test the introduction of an endangered species (see Goal 2).  The combination of actual forest conversion and formal experimental design will answer many of the questions posed above, as well as provide a sound basis for making better informed management decisions into the longer term (ten to 100 years). 

Management of the residential area following short-term conversion tasks will depend largely on development plans and lot sale schedules.  Street trees, shrubs, and other perennials may be planted in accordance with regulations, rather than animal populations, in mind.  Burning may be eliminated once the piles have been burned.  Mowing may be used to control fuel build-ups and other unwanted growth instead of herbicides.  On the other hand, little is known about maintaining stable assemblages of native plants in an oak savannah environment over time, either.  Management actions are dependent on the current stage of knowledge, which is nearly as limited and conjectural.

Assuming that this plan continues as outlined, two complementary experiments are described that will develop significant information of direct value to the continued long-term development and management of the 18-acre oak savannah environment.  Both experiments will conclude after a nine year period, and both take place on the same area of ground; within the oak savannah.   

Reintroduction of Indian-type burning practices

This experiment tests the responses of target and focus plant and animal species (including weeds and pests) to the reintroduction of regular burning practices that have been absent from the environment for more than 150 years.   The oak savannah environment is divided into three meadows and woodlands of varying aspect--south, east, and west--and each is burned at one-, two-, and three-year intervals for a nine year period (see Goal 8 Tasks).  Burns are timed to reflect Indian burning schedules (toasting ripe tarweed seeds in late summer or early fall is a major factor), and are intended to directly involve the public.  Relict and introduced plant populations will be mapped over the same time period to chart their responses to the differing burn schedules.  Effects on select native plant species (oak, madrone, shrubs, grasses, forbs, and bulbs) and weed species (Brachypodium and poisonoak) will be the focus of the study. 

Introduction of Kincaid's lupine, an endangered species

Students will assist with the formal design of this experiment, under the direction of local scientists, and can display their design and findings on the Internet for peer review and public information purposes.  An attempt will be made to introduce Kincaid's lupine (see Goal 2) into an urban residential environment in six one-acre test plots.  Two one-acre plots will be contained within each of the three experimental burn areas, and their progress will be modified and monitored for nine years, in accordance with design.  Focus will be on response of Kincaid's lupine to different regular burn schedules, and whether Fender's blue butterflies will visit or occupy the area over time.  Other questions may address tests of seeds vs. transplants, or monitor natural reproduction (species spread) outside the test plots.

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