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Project ID: 15-2-01-16

Year: 2015

Date Started: 08/01/2015

Ending Date:  12/31/2017

Title: Influence of fire severity and canopy cover on the population dynamics and quality of beargrass

Project Proposal Abstract: The U.S. Forest Service multiple-use concept establishes the importance of managing forests for diverse stakeholders and values. The availability and quality of culturally and economically significant plants are part of this mandate. Beargrass (Xerophyllum tenax Melanthiaceae) is a fire-adapted, perennial evergreen herb found in the Pacific Northwest that is ecologically important for animals from insects to grizzly bears, economically important for commercial harvest by the floral industry, as well as culturally important in indigenous basketry. Beargrass provides a white overlay for Native American weavers across the Pacific Northwest where basketry forms a cornerstone of cultural identity. While the size and abundance of plants may be important for all harvesters, indigenous weavers have specific quality standards for harvestable leaves that include the color, length, strength, and pliability of leaves. These plant qualities are achieved through Indigenous Management Systems that include fire. Native Americans have managed beargrass using fire for millennia, and fire is generally considered to increase the quantity and quality of beargrass leaves for basketry. The best quality beargrass is collected after low or moderate intensity fire and in partial shade within 1-3 years since fire. Fire suppression over the last 150 years has increased fuel loads and reduced the abundance and harvest quality of beargrass, such that today it is often difficult to obtain. Investigating the impacts of contemporary and traditional management of beargrass can help to improve the availability and harvest quality of this species. Further, learning about Native American management systems for culturally significant plants may reveal new approaches that compliment and enhance current practices. For example, research suggests that indigenous management practices for beargrass in the Pacific Northwest aim to create similar forest conditions to those that U.S. government managers strive to produce in order to reduce fire risk. This suggests that indigenous knowledge may offer alternative and complimentary management approaches that reduce fire risk while also increasing the abundance and/or quality of plants of cultural value. Fire, canopy cover, and other factors are known to impact plant population dynamics, and may interact in ways that are non-additive and non-intuitive ways. The influence of these factors on plant quality has been much less explored. In this study, in order to assess the impact of contemporary management practices on culturally-significant forest plants, I propose to measure the impact of fire severity and canopy cover on the population viability (the ability of the population to sustain itself over time) and leaf quality (acceptability to harvesters) of beargrass in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. This species and these drivers and response variables were chosen as a sample system that emphasizes key management practices in the context of a plant of high cultural value, such that results are expected to be meaningful for managers as well as indigenous and commercial harvesters. I anticipate that partial light canopy conditions and that frequent, low-intensity fire will promote higher population growth rates and the highest quality beargrass leaves for indigenous harvesters. Less canopy cover and moderate severity fire may be associated with a greater production of leaf tissue and leaves more acceptable to commercial harvesters. At the conclusion of this project, findings, as well as management recommendations related to fire severity, canopy cover and climate change adaptation will be presented to Forest Service managers and to beargrass harvesters through community meetings, a pamphlet and a webinar.

Principal Investigator: Tamara Ticktin

Agency/Organization: University of Hawaii-Manoa

Branch or Dept: Botany


Other Project Collaborators

Type

Name

Agency/Organization

Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Paul K. Kakugawa

University of Hawaii-Manoa

Office of Research Services

Budget Contact

Paul K. Kakugawa

University of Hawaii-Manoa

Office of Research Services

Student Investigator

Georgia M. Hart

University of Hawaii-Manoa

Botany


Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network

Northwest


Level

State

Agency

Unit

STATE

OR

FS

Mt. Hood National Forest


Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

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