There’s a thesis doubleheader this Tuesday, May 28, so after Lauren Grand kicks things off at 8:30 a.m., head over to the Center for Urban Horticulture to see Lindsey Hamilton present her Master of Environmental Horticulture research at 10:30 a.m. in the Isaacson Classroom!
“Skokomish Savanna Fire Restoration and the Effects on Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinium) and Salal (Gaultheria shallon), Olympic National Forest, Wash.”
All along western Washington, fire has been used for thousands of years by Native American tribes in order to maintain open landscapes that in effect promote particular plant communities and grazing habitat. This study takes place in the southeast Olympic Peninsula, on land that was traditionally burned, likely every 2 to 10 years by the Skokomish Tribe. In this moist Mediterranean climate, a fire regime not imposed by humans would have occurred only every 90 to 300 years. With fire suppression beginning in the late 1800s, a Douglas fir – salal (Pseudotsuga menziesii – Gaultheria shallon) forest established in a once prairie/savanna/ woodland matrix. In 2002, the Olympic National Forest began to restore a 32-acre portion with the intent to enhance landscape and biological diversity and to restore a culturally significant ecosystem.
Bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinium) and salal plants were once managed by the use of fire by the Skokomish Tribe in this matrix ecosystem, because of their important food value. Studies suggest that they can co-dominate a fire-managed system in the Pacific Northwest. The objective of Hamilton’s research is to understand how restoration efforts using controlled fires have affected the distribution of bracken fern and salal with respect to environmental factors in order to better understand how to manage for a savanna with a co-dominant understory of both.
Hamilton’s committee chair is Professor Kern Ewing, and other members include James Fridley and David Peter.
Photo © Lindsey Hamilton.