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Project ID: 14-1-06-22

Year: 2014

Date Started: 09/01/2014

Ending Date:  09/01/2018

Title: Hydrology and Fire in the Sierra Nevada: A Possible Win-Win

Project Proposal Abstract: Our primary objective is to characterize the hydrological and vegetation dynamics associated with a long-established fire use program in Yosemite National Parks Illilouette Creek Basin. In contrast to infrequent, large, high severity wildfire such as the recent Rim Fire that burned over 100,000 ha and parts of Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest, a natural lightning-ignited fire regime dominated by low- and moderate- severity fires has been restored in the Illilouette Creek Basin since 1974. The proximity of the Rim Fire to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (a system supplies fresh water to 1.7 million people in the San Francisco Bay Area) is a powerful example of the critical connections between forest management and water supplies that are addressed by this proposal. The central question that we ask is: Is there evidence for a potential win-win scenario in which fire regime restoration both promotes landscape scale ecosystem resilience and leads to increased water yield coupled with more favorable timing of stream discharge and retention of water quality? We will combine contemporary field measurements with an incomparable historical record of fire, forest, and flow dynamics to address this question. Strategies to increase the sustainability of water resources are essential for California and the entire western US as urban and agricultural demands increase and climate warms. The proposed research will evaluate the strategy of reinstating (or mimicking) a natural fire regime in terms of its impacts on surface water yields and water quality. Managed wildfire is increasing and is expected to be the primary method of forest management in more remote watersheds on National Forest and National Park Service lands in the Sierra Nevada. This project is therefore a short-term, high-impact project with strong policy and management ramifications. This project has a great advantage because we have a 14,000 ha study area that does not require a federal agency to write another NEPA document, open it up to public comment, revise and finalize the document, and then select a contractor to perform the work that can be studied to answer these critical questions. This planning process can take many years but our project would begin fully in 2015.

Principal Investigator: Scott L. Stephens

Agency/Organization: University of California-Berkeley

Branch or Dept: Department of Environmental Sciences-Policy & Management

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Noam Pines

University of California-Berkeley

Sponsored Projects Office

Budget Contact

Noam Pines

University of California-Berkeley

Sponsored Projects Office

Co-Principal Investigator

John J. Battles

University of California-Berkeley

Department of Environmental Sciences-Policy & Management

Co-Principal Investigator

Brandon M. Collins

Forest Service

PSW-Sierra Nevada Research Center

Co-Principal Investigator

Maggi Kelly

University of California-Berkeley

Department of Environmental Sciences-Policy & Management

Co-Principal Investigator

Sally E. Thompson

University of California-Berkeley

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


Jan W. Van Wagtendonk

USGS-Geological Survey

WERC-Yosemite Field Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network









Yosemite National Park

Project Deliverables

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

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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