ISSN 1188-603X

No. 329 May 14, 2004 Victoria, B.C.
Dr. A. Ceska, P.O.Box 8546, Victoria, B.C. Canada V8W 3S2


From: John Parminter []

The terrestrial ecosystems of British Columbia experience a variety of natural disturbances which may or may not form patterns in time, space and effects. The parameters of frequency, size and intensity define the regime of each disturbance agent - which are generally wildfire, wind, insects, diseases, mass movements (landslides and snow avalanches), flooding and siltation as well as snow and ice deposition.

On a provincial basis, wildfire is the most pervasive disturbance agent. Since 1912, when records were first collected by the B.C. Forest Service, about 180 000 known wildfires have burned over 11 million hectares of forest and grassland out of total areas of 54 million and 300 000 ha, respectively. We know the most about wildfires because we have been fighting them since 1905, have kept fairly accurate statistics since 1912, and maps of burned areas since 1919. Historically, British Columbia's forest fires have ranged from small spots resulting from a single lightning strike or man-caused ignition to fires of 200 000 hectares or more. The latter usually result from multiple lightning ignitions, erratic and strong winds, and nearly continuous fuel availability. One fire, which began in June, 1950 near Fort St. John, eventually burned 1.4 million ha over a four-month period, extending into northwestern Alberta.

Of the 20 largest wildfires known to have occurred within British Columbia since 1919, nine burned exclusively in the Boreal White and Black Spruce biogeoclimatic zone and five burned primarily there but also into the zone above it, the Spruce - Willow - Birch. These 14 fires account for 1 280 700 hectares of the estimated total of 1 556 300 hectares represented by the top 20 wildfires for the province (or 83% of that area). The largest fire on record occurred in 1958 and covered 285 900 hectares, mostly in the Boreal White and Black Spruce biogeoclimatic zone. Other large fires, ranging in size from 35 800 to 68 700 hectares, occurred in the Montane Spruce, Interior Cedar - Hemlock, Engelmann Spruce - Subalpine Fir and Interior Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zones, almost exclusively in the early 1930s.

For further information about the biogeoclimatic zones, see

An animation of the known fire history can be viewed on the Pacific Forestry Centre (Canadian Forest Service) website:

Field studies of fire history have also shown that fire has influenced most of our grasslands and forest types. The fire history of a particular area is related to a number of environmental factors such as climate (general and drought periodicity), aspect (warm versus cool slope), elevation (related to microclimate and lightning incidence), topography (fire behaviour and burn area patterns), fuel types (fire intensity and rate of spread), and ignition probability (lightning and man).

Fire researchers seek to understand the long-term natural role of wildfires, which are categorized by type and their effects on the ecosystem. Surface fires, which burn primarily in the understorey of forests, are most common in the Ponderosa Pine and Interior Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zones. These fires were historically frequent and consumed the woody fuels, thinned out the smaller trees and rejuvenated many of the herbs and shrubs. Crown fires, which burn through the tree canopy and are usually linked to a surface fire, are the most dramatic kind of forest fire, and can be fast-moving and difficult or impossible to control under extreme fire weather conditions. They are common in most biogeoclimatic zones but rarer in the ponderosa pine and interior Douglas-fir forests.

There are variations on these two main themes, with surface fires also occurring in lodgepole pine forests of the Interior Douglas-fir and Sub-Boreal Pine - Spruce biogeoclimatic zones. Mixed fire regimes, involving both surface and crown fires, appear to be a function of combinations of slope, aspect, forest cover, fuel loadings and how those factors influence fire behaviour. They have yet to be well- described and likely occur primarily in the Coastal Douglas-fir, Ponderosa Pine, Interior Douglas-fir, Montane Spruce, Interior Cedar - Hemlock, Sub-Boreal Pine Spruce and Sub-Boreal Spruce biogeoclimatic zones.

Most surface fire regimes are "stand maintaining" as they maintain a particular combination of species composition and stand structure. In the absence of frequent stand maintaining fires the ecosystem will change - typically trees encroach onto grasslands and open ponderosa pine and interior Douglas-fir forests become denser, especially in the understorey and midcanopy. Crown fire regimes are stand replacing disturbances. They usually initiate secondary succession to establish another vegetative community on the site, probably very similar to the one which burned (especially true for lodgepole pine and black spruce forests).

Based on current knowledge, fire return intervals show tremendous variation through the province. In very dry, interior ecosystems, the average return cycle can be as short as 4-5 years and in very wet coastal forests, over 500 years or more. Fire sizes are also variable but show some patterns by biogeoclimatic zone. For sites most commonly affected by fire, a summary of fire frequency and size data follow.

     Zone(*)   Min            Avg            Max
     BG        4-5            5-15           15-25
     PP        4-5            5-15           15-25
               surface fires (understorey)
               rare           rare           rare
               crown fires (overstorey)
     SBS       75-100         100-150        150-250
      Sb       50-75          75-125         125-175
      At Pl Sw 75-100         100-150        150-250
      Pl Sw Bl 100-150        150-200        200-300
     SBPS      100-125        125-175        175-250
     ICH       100-150        150-250        250-350
     IDF       5-10           10-20          20-50
               surface fires (understorey)
               100-150        150-250        250-350
               surface and crown
     CDF       50-100         100-300        300-400
     MS        125-175        175-275        275-350
     CWH       100-150        150-350        350-500
     ESSF      150-200        200-300        350-500
     SWB       150-200        200-350        350-500
     AT        250            300-400        500-600
     MH        300            350-450        550-650

      Tree abbreviations for the BWBS zone data:
         At   Trembling aspen
         Bl   Subalpine fir
         Pl   Lodgepole pine
         Sb   Black spruce
         Sw   White spruce

     Zone (*)   Min      Avg       Max
     AT        .1-5      5-50      50-150
     BG        .1-5      5-50      50-150
     PP        .1-5      5-50      50-150
        surface fires (understorey)
               .1-5      5         5-50
          crown fires (overstorey) CDF
              .1-5       5-50      150-500
     MH        .1-5      50-150    150-500
     CWH       .1-5      50-500    > 500
     SBPS      .1-5      50-500    > 1000
     IDF       .1-5      5-50      50
               surface fires (understorey)
               .1-5      50-500    > 5000
               surface and crown
     MS        .1-5      50-500    > 5000
     ESSF      .1-5      50-500    10,000
     SBS       .1-5      50-500    15,000
     ICH       .1-5      150-500   > 25,000
     SWB       .1-5      150-2,000 > 5,000
     BWBS      .1-5      3000-10,000 200,000

(*) Zones:
   AT:  Alpine  Tundra,  BG: Bunchgrass, BWBS: Boreal White and
   Black Spruce, CDF: Coastal Douglas-fir, CWH: Coastal  Western
   Hemlock,  ESSF:  Englemann Spruce - Subalpine Fir, ICH: Inte-
   rior Cedar - Hemlock, IDF: Interior Douglas-fir, MH: Mountain
   Hemlock, MS: Montane Spruce, PP: Ponderosa Pine,  SBPS:  Sub-
   Boreal  Pine  - Spruce, SBS: Sub-Boreal Spruce, SWB: Spruce -
   Willow - Birch.

This is meant to show the spectrum of fire regimes in a general way. It is based on available literature for British Columbia and related ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest states. Some sites will be primarily affected by disturbances other than fire (e.g. windthrow and landslides) so these figures are for fireprone sites, intended to reflect conditions over the past 2000 years and for natural wildfires only, with no persistent human influence.

The summer of 2003 brought some serious wildfires to the southern interior of British Columbia. While the fire season was not especially notable for the total area burned or the number of wildfires, they exhibited extreme behaviour not previously seen by people with 30 or more years of firefighting experience. Some wildfires also entered communities and destroyed many homes.

How does the last summer's weather compare? A 450-year precipitation record reconstructed by Emma Watson of Western University, based on tree rings collected near Kamloops, indi- cated that an average of 300 mm of total precipitation falls between August of one year and July of the next. However, from August 2002 to July 2003, Kamloops received only 240 mm of precipitation therefore only 21 of the previous 450 intervals were drier. The result was very easy ignition, rapid rates of spread (aided by strong winds) and considerable consumption of the forest floor and decayed Coarse Woody Debris. An inspection of several of the 2003 wildfires revealed that grasses and shrubs such as willows and birch are resprouting, trembling aspen are suckering, and Douglas-fir and lodgepole pine seed has dispersed on some of the burned areas.

Knowledge of the natural fire regimes has been incorporated into resource management documents such as the Biodiversity Guidebook and the Landscape Unit Planning Guide and used to define seral stage distribution, harvest block and leave area patch size and landscape patterns. Regional plans, such as the Kootenay - Boundary Land Use Plan, contain landscape level targets for restoring grasslands and open ponderosa pine and interior Douglas-fir forests which have suffered from encroachment and ingrowth due to decades of fire exclusion. Maintenance of these restored ecosystems will be accomplished by a cycle of prescribed burning based on the historic fire cycle (which included lightningcaused fires and aboriginal prescribed burning).

Further information on natural disturbances in British Columbia and related ecosystems can be found in these recent sources:

Agee, J.K. 1993.
Fire ecology of Pacific Northwest forests. Island Press, Washington, D.C. 493 p.
Arno, S.F. & D.H. Davis. 1980.
Fire history of western redcedar/hemlock forests in northern Idaho. Pp. 21-26 in: Proceedings of the Fire History Workshop, October 20-24, 1980. Tucson, Arizona. USDA Forest Service General Technical Report RM-81. Fort Collins, Colorado.
Arsenault, A. 1995.
Pattern and process in old-growth temperate rainforests of southern British Columbia. Ph.D. Thesis, Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C. xvii + 187 p.
Barrett, S.W., S.F. Arno & C.H. Key. 1991.
Fire regimes of western larch - lodgepole pine forests in Glacier National Park, Montana. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 21: 1711-1720.
Brown, K.J. & R.J. Hebda. 1998.
Long-term fire incidence in coastal forests of British Columbia. Northwest Science 72:64-66.
Daigle, P. 1996.
Fire in the dry interior forests of British Columbia. Extension Note 8, Research Branch, Ministry of Forests, Victoria, B.C. 5 p.
Douglas, K.L. 2001.
Historical analysis of fire intervals of two biogeoclimatic units in the central Chilcotin, British Columbia. B.Sc. Thesis, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, B.C. viii + 49 p.
Francis, S.R. et al. 2002.
Characterising fire regimes in sub-boreal landscapes: fire history research in SBPS and SBS biogeoclimatic zones of Cariboo Forest Region. Prepared for Lignum Ltd., Williams Lake, B.C. by Applied Ecosystem Management, Whitehorse, Yukon.
Gavin, D., L.B. Brubaker & K.P. Lertzman. 2003.
Holocene fire history of a coastal temperate rain forest based on soil charcoal radiocarbon dates. Ecology 84:186-201.
Gavin, D.G. 2000.
Holocene fire history of a coastal temperate rain forest, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. viii + 132 p.
Gray, R. and E. Riccius. 1999.
Historical fire regime for the Pothole Creek interior Douglas-fir research site. Working Paper 38, Research Branch, Ministry of Forests, Victoria, B.C. 15 p.
Hallett, D.J., D.S. Lepofsky, R.W. Mathewes & K.P. Lertzman. 2003.
11 000 years of fire history and climate in the mountain hemlock rain forests of southwestern British Columbia based on sedimentary charcoal. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 33: 292-312. -03
Hawkes, B.C., W. Vasbinder & C. DeLong. 1997.
Retrospective fire study: fire regimes in the SBSvk and ESSFwk2/wc3 biogeoclimatic units of northeastern British Columbia. McGregor Model Forest Association, Prince George, B.C. 35 p.
Iverson, K.E., R.W. Gray, B.A. Blackwell, C.M. Wong and K.L. MacKenzie. 2002.
Past fire regimes in the interior Douglas-fir, dry cool subzone, Fraser variant (IDFdk3). Report to Lignum Ltd. 84 p., Appendices.
Lertzman, K., D. Gavin, D. Hallett, L. Brubaker, D. Lepofsky and R. Mathewes. 2002.
Long-term fire regime estimated from soil charcoal in coastal temperate rainforests. Conservation Ecology 6: 5.
Masters, A.M. 1990.
Changes in forest fire frequency in Kootenay National Park, Canadian Rockies. Canadian Journal of Botany 68: 1763-1767.
Riccius, E.H. 1998.
Scale issues in the fire history of a fine grained landscape. MRM thesis. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. viii + 78 p.
Rogeau, M.-P. 2001.
Fire history study: Mackenzie TSA, British Columbia. Prepared for Abitibi Consolidated Ltd., Mackenzie, B.C. xv + 162 p.
Steventon, J.D. 1997.
Historic disturbance rates for interior biogeoclimatic subzones of the Prince Rupert Forest Region. Prince Rupert Forest Region, Ministry of Forests, Smithers, B.C. Extension Note 26. 5 p.
Wong, C.M. 1999.
Memories of natural disturbances in ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir age structure, southwestern British Columbia. MRM thesis. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C. x + 97 p.


From: T. Vrålstad, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, Norway []

A forest fire is an ecological disturbance that suddenly and brutally can change a vital forest to a smoking heap of coal and ash. For most organisms such an event is often lethal, at least for those living above-ground. But for others, new possibilities emerge. Not many weeks pass before an unusual fungal life awakens - that is at least what we observe. Post fire sites commonly host a broad range of fungi that are never observed anywhere else, and are therefore referred as post fire fungi. They are also called phoenicoid fungi - after the mythical bird Phoenix arising from ashes. Other nicknames are carbonicolous fungi (fungi dependant on coal) and pyrophilous fungi (fungi that love fire). The majority of post-fire fungi are found within the ascomycete order Pezizales (cup-fungi). A number of myths are connected to the post fire fungi, and the theories for why they only fruit on burnt ground have been many and varied. Some have assumed that the fungal spores are dormant in those periods between fires, and that the spores are dependent on the heat stimuli to grow and fruit. Other theories assume that these fungi are dependant on coal and ash to fulfill their life cycle, that they are tolerant to the chemical products released by the burning, that they appear due to the reduced competition from other organisms, or that they simply are adapted to the special conditions that arise after fires, such as high pH and reduced moisture holding capacity of the substrate. While all these theories may be true for some of the post fire species, few of them give complete answers to a vital question: Where are the post fire fungi hiding and living in the period between fires? One of most prominent and common post fire fungi in northern boreal parts of the world is the ascomycete Geopyxis carbonaria (Alb. & Schw.: Fr.) Sacc. (for a picture see Just a few weeks after a forest fire the first fruit bodies of this species appear, and after another few weeks the burnt forest floor is covered by orange cup-shaped fruit bodies (1-4 cm in diameter). After a forest fire in Oslo (Norway) in 1992, we observed as many as 1000 fruit bodies per square meter on the burnt spruce forest floor the following year. The theories listed above poorly explain the mass occurrence of Geopyxis carbonaria after boreal forest fires, since G. carbonaria spores are not tolerant to heat, and do no not need any heat or pH stimuli to grow. Another aspect is that the spores can probably not survive in the humid and biologically active boreal forest soils for several decades between each fire event.

Until recently, mycologists tended to focus on fungal fruit bodies, which are easily observable by eye. But the fruit bodies are only the sexual stage in a fungal life cycle. The vegetative stage is the dominant stage, commonly belowground, more difficult to observe and recognize, and rarely noticed. However, understanding the ecology and behavior of the post-fire fungi requires knowledge of their vegetative life in the periods between fires.

After the forest fire in Oslo, we observed a mass-occurrence of Geopyxis carbonaria in the burnt spruce forest, but no fruit bodies were seen on surrounding burnt clear cut sites although several other species of post fire fungi were fruiting there. This strongly indicates that G. carbonaria is closely associated to the spruce trees in the pre-fire community. We started therefore to search below ground on the spruce roots. Aided by molecular techniques we were able to show that mycelium genetically identical to G. carbonaria was repeatedly isolated from ectomycorrhizal roots of the spruce trees at depths below detrimental heat penetration. Based on these findings we proposed a new hypothesis for the life cycle of this fungus: Fungal spores of G. carbonaria are probably not dormant in the soils in the long lasting periods between forest fires. They neither require coal nor ash to grow and fruit. Instead we believe that G. carbonaria lives in a vegetative, asexual life as ectomycorrhizal (root symbiotic) partner with the roots of spruce trees (and probably with a few more coniferous species) in the periods between forest fires. Two fungal strains isolated from ectomycorrhiza on Picea abies (L.) Karst. were shown to have ITS sequence genotypes identical to that of G. carbonaria, supporting the hypothesis that G. carbonaria forms ectomycorrhizal associations with coniferous trees. In pure culture (in vitro) G. carbonaria also produces an anamorphic (asexual) stage very similar to Dicyma ampullifera Boulanger. It is therefore likely that the fungus always is present in the rhizosphere as an ectomycorrhizal partner that can reproduce and spread asexually anytime (independent of fires) by the asexual spore-producing Dicyma-like anamorph.

Biologists generally agree that sexual reproduction is the most important event in an organism's life. Fungi, however, have several options for genetic recombination and spatial dispersal belowground, where sex is not necessarily important. The main part of the fungal life cycle is the vegetative mycelial stage below ground or within the tissue of a host organism. But changes and stress are factors that can induce fungal sexual reproduction.

Ectomycorrhizal fungi live in close symbiosis with tree roots. In this symbiosis the fungi provide the plants with water, minerals and micronutrients through their expanding mycelial networks in the soil, and receive in return photosynthetic products (carbohydrates) from the plants. During a forest fire, fungi associated with roots at depths below detrimental heat penetration (like G. carbonaria) will not be eliminated by the fire directly, but will starve when the host tree dies and the carbon transfer terminates as a result of the fire. Fungi unable to grow alone would be expected to die in this situation. But some ectomycorrhizal fungi have the potential to grow, at least for a short period, independent from their host. This is also the case for G. carbonaria.

A fire is probably a tremendous stress situation for mycorrhizal fungi where the food resources (carbon transfer from the host trees) disappear. The only alternative to death is dispersal, which for a fungus most effectively is done through sexual reproduction, followed by spore dispersal. The fire in Oslo in 1992 induced an amazing mass occurrence of the sexual stage (fruit bodies) of G. carbonaria, possibly reflecting a massive, specialized and successful fungal escape from a dying partner. The billions of spores shot out from the fruit bodies and dispersed through the air presents the opportunity to reenter a vegetative, symbiotic stage as ectomycorrhizal partners with roots of living trees until a new forest fire provokes the next sexual escape.

Basis reference for this note:

Vrålstad T, Holst-Jensen A & Schumacher T. 1998.
The postfire discomycete Geopyxis carbonaria (Ascomycota) is a biotrophic root associate with Norway spruce (Picea abies) in nature. Molecular Ecology 7: 609-616.

Previous literature on post-fire fungi and ecology:

El-Abyad, M.S.H. & J. Webster. 1968.
Studies on pyrophilous discomycetes. 1. Comparative physiological studies. Transactions of the British Mycological Society 51: 353-367.
El-Abyad, M.S.H. & J. Webster. 1968.
Studies on pyrophilous discomycetes. 2. Competition. Transactions of the British Mycological Society 51: 369- 375.
Keeley, S.C. & M. Pizzorno. 1986.
Charred wood stimulated germination of two fire-following herbs of the California chaparral and the role of hemicellulose. American Journal of Botany 73: 1289-1297.
Petersen, P.M. 1970.
Danish fireplace fungi, an ecological investigation of fungi on burns. Dansk Botanisk Arkiv 27: 6-97.
Turnau, K. 1984.
Post-fire cup-fungi of Turbacz and Stare Wierchy Mountains in the Gorce Range (Polish Western Carpathians). Prace Botaniczne 12: 147-170.
Warcup, H.J. & K.F. Baker. 1963.
Occurrence of dormant ascospores in soil. Nature 197: 1317-1318.
Wicklow, D.T. & B.J. Hirschfield. 1979.
Competitive hierarchy in post-fire ascomycetes. Mycologia 71: 47-54.
Wicklow, D.T. & J.C. Zak. 1979.
Ascospore germination of carbonicolous ascomycetes in fungistatic soils: an ecological interpretation. Mycologia 71: 238-242.
Widden, P. & D. Parkinson. 1975.
The effects of a forest fire on soil microfungi. Soil Biology and Biochemistry 7, 125-138.
Zak, J.C. & D.T. Wicklow. 1978.
Response of carbonicolous ascomycetes to aerated steam temperatures and treatment intervals. Canadian Journal of Botany 56: 2313-2318.

Some recent studies on the topic:

Bruns, T., J. Tan, M. Bidartondo, T. Szaro, & D. Redecker. 2002.
Survival of Suillus pungens and Amanita francheti ectomycorrhizal genets was rare or absent after a standreplacing wildfire. New Phytologist 155: 517- 523.
Chen, D.M. & J.W.G. Cairney. 2002.
Investigation of the influence of prescribed burning on ITS profiles of ectomycorrhizal and other soil fungi at three Australian sclerophyll forest sites. Mycological Research 106: 532-540.
Dahlberg, A. 2002.
Effects of fire on ectomycorrhizal fungi in Fennoscandian boreal forests. Silva Fennica 36: 69-80.
Dahlberg, A., J. Schimmel, A.F.S. Taylor, & H. Johannesson. 2001.
Post-fire legacy of ectomycorrhizal fungal communities in the Swedish boreal forest in relation to fire severity and logging intensity. Biological Conservation 100: 151-161.
Grogan, P., J. Baar, & T.D. Bruns. 2000.
Below- ground ectomycorrhizal community structure in a recently burned bishop pine forest. Journal of Ecology 88: 1051-1062.


From: Maggie Rogers []

A summer 2003 fire had scorched roadsides and forest in the west end of the Columbia River Gorge east of Cascade Locks, on the Oregon side. The woods, usually green and lush, had been dry with summer drought. A falling power pole started the fire. Because of the Gorge winds, it was mostly a fast, hot fire. After highway closure for more than a day for firefighting, the ground lay black and ashy through the winter, the conifer and deciduous tree trunks char-blackened. .sp In April we went what fungi might be there. The previous spring, there'd been a carpeting of tiny pale apricotcolored cups littering the ashy remains of a 2002 fire near the summit of the Cascades east of Salem. Wearing our prescribed hard hats against the assumed danger of falling dead branches, we walked among huge now-bare boulders, the former mittens and scarves of mosspads reduced to fine black wiry tendrils. Moving into the winter-moistened area, we scanned the Douglas-fir needle duff. Sallie Jones had checked earlier: "Millions of little pale cups!"

The little cups (Geopyxis sp.) were indeed a fantastic littering of warm color. Later, over her microscope and chemicals, Judy Roger would identify the Peziza proteana Boud., a Plicaria sp., and several "little orange critters that feast on charcoal."

The trunks of the great Douglas- firs, Pseudotsuga menziesii, were charred black at their bases. Touching the char, I was surprised at the fragile softness of it: living fir bark is not soft. Looking up, I could see that some of the firs were still living, usually the oldest. Bare, blackened branches laced the sky. But on the ground, light brown needles carpeted everything. These had not died instantly. And they were creating a soft, absorbent ground cover. Moving along, we saw sizable disc-shaped fungi, probably the Peziza proteana, most a nearblack color, but many of the young ones pale lavender to a deep mauve-black. Some grew singly; others seemed to need company. Fewer of these than of the Geopyxis, and harder to see against the dark soil. One group of these actually fruited inside a charred pocket of a stump, on almost no substrate.

Sallie chirped, "Morel!" and we adjusted to take in more than cups and dishes. In an hour, just a scant six or seven burn morels, most very young. One bug-chewed larger pale one looked more like a "natural," but close to it grew a very young one with different coloring. Darker.

The sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) had not survived well; their blackened crowns spotted the area like large cones, held to the ground by their seared root masses. A few showed green curled fronds, but only where the fire, not so hot at these areas, had rushed quickly along.

Then I saw it. A brown and tan mushroom, patterned rather like a honey mushroom, Armillaria mellea Vahl (Quel.). Perhaps six inches across, its stipe maybe four inches from the ground. But the season was wrong for honey mushrooms. I reached down to touch it. Robust, firm, its stipe was thicker and more solid than expected.

I picked it, and examined the surface beneath the cap. Not gills, but oval pores of pale creamy white, perfect patterning. I'd never seen one of these before. Then at the base of a large, fire-blackened maple, an older one, its cap beginning to deteriorate around the edges. And next to it, a younger one. We gathered to examine them. Was it an Albatrellus sp.? That was the closest we could come. But it was fruiting in the wrong season. Not until I came to yet another did I think to dig down further beneath the stipe. First, two or three rootlike structures, fleshy. And more of something beneath! I began digging downward and found a larger harder mass. And there was the clue: a sclerotium! Was it a Tuckahoe, Poria cocos (Schw.) Wolf?

We found a few more, still assuming them more like Albatrellus than anything else. Eventually,we'd spotted a total of nearly a dozen of these. Only one of us ever having seen them before; Judy Roger, remembered finding one several years ago near Gladstone, Oregon, in a Willamette River park Eventually we came up with Polyporus tuberaster (Pers.:Fr.) Fr., pictured in Arora's Mushrooms Demystified, color photo #151. So the question arose: are they a fungus that fruits only occasionally? Are they there every year, but hidden by lush green ground-cover plants? Or perhaps more important, was it the fire that caused them to fruit?

Later, in a newsletter article by David Rose, I read that C.G. Lloyd, the cranky curmudgeon of mycology, had clearly described the differences between the Tuckahoe and the Polyporus tuberaster. The Tuckahoe's sclerotium is quite like a potato in texture, and is considered edible by some. But no one could consume any part of of the P. tuberaster sclerotium, a rigid, heavy, mass of dense mycelium threads throughout soil, rocks and other inclusions. The herbarium at Oregon State University, Corvallis reported their only specimens of Polyporus tuberaster, four of them, had been found in Douglas County, Oregon, far to the south of the Columbia River Gorge. Had they appeared after a burn? We don't know - yet.


From: Ian Gibson []

The Pacific Northwest Key Council, a group of mycologists dedicated to the creation and publication of field keys to the fungi of the Pacific Northwest, met for their 2003 spring foray at Suttle Lake, Oregon, May 16 to 18, 2003.

Two fires occurred in this area in 2002:

This is the Suttle Lake list with some questionables left out.

The post-fire fungi (burned ground or burned wood is mentioned in descriptions from the literature):

Other fungi seen on this foray:


From: Piet-Louis Grundling [] originally published in International Mire Conservation Group Newsletter, 2004/1: 21 in March 2004 see also [posted in BEN with permission]

Southern Africa is at present experiencing one of the worst droughts in 40 years. Some areas, such as Pretoria in the interior of South Africa have received less than 20 % of its mean annual summer rainfall. The region is in general a dry area with rainfall varying from 1200 - 1500 mm per annum in the east to less than 200 mm per annum in the west.

The drought has resulted in huge pressures on already water stressed catchments and associated mires. Especially in areas where groundwater resources are exploited peatlands are in peril. The karst peatlands in the western part of South Africa (refer to article in IMCG Newsletter issue 2001/2, June 2001) are hit particularly hard. One of these peatlands, Bodibe, is currently one fire. The area is located in the midst of a rural community and the inhabitants are suffering from a overdose of acrid peat fire smoke, a fire hazard, and a lack of grazing and water of livestock. The fire has lead to the loss of at least two cattle and one man has sustained severe burns when trapped in the burning peat. Deep desiccation fissures along which the fire spreads also poses a health and safety risk.

Peat fires are part of the eco- system dynamics of the Okavango Delta in Botswana further towards the northwest. Ash layers within the peatland indicate that also in this part of the country fire is not an isolated incident. The peat fire was probably started when the peatland vegetation was deliberately burned to stimulate new growth for grazing.

The Working for Wetlands Programme has been requested by the government of the North West province to render support. The peat fire will be isolated by the digging of a trench after which a cut-off wall will be constructed within the peat to drown the fire with the remaining water within the peatland. Care will be taken to allow water to migrate downstream to maintain moisture levels in the wetland downstream of the peatfire.

Another peat fire is raging in the central part at the Rietvlei Nature Reserve near Pretoria. This is also a karst peatland and is one of sites that will be visited during the 2004 IMCG congress in Southern Africa (refer to 2nd Circular in IMCG Newsletter issue 2003/3, October 2003). The peat fire occurred in an area that has been on fire before due to a lowering in regional groundwater resources. This fire was a result of arson that originated outside the nature reserve. The fire is currently under control. A cut-off trench was dug around it and a feeder channel was dug by Working for Wetlands from the main channel to rewet this part of the wetland. Half of the water in this channel consists of controlled discharge from a sewage treatment plant up- stream of the peatland.

Two other peat fires are burning in the higher lying Steenkamsberg Plateau in the eastern part of the country. One is located in the Lakenvlei mire, which is also one of the sites that will be visited during the 2004 IMCG congress. This peat fire was caused by a run-away veld (grassland) fire. The mire is in a good condition and the fire did not burn very deeply into the substrate.

The other peat fire on this plateau occurred in an area that is afforested with exotic Pinus and Eucalyptus plantations. These plantations have a dramatic negative impact on regional watertables. The result is that peatlands dry out and it is ironic that it are usually management fires that result in the combustion of degraded peatlands within these plantations. Severe peat fires occur from time to time on the eastern seabord of South Africa where extensive plantations are found.

These fires do not only poses a health and safety risk to man and animal, result in the destruction of peatlands, but also pose an environmental disaster with the release of carbon gases into the atmosphere. More than anything else it is a reflection of a changing environment, not only on a global scale, but also on a local level - a monument of our failures as custodians of our environment.


From: Franklin J. Svoboda [] originally published in the Natural Areas Journal 24(1): 72-73. [Posted in BEN with permission]
Stewart, Omer C., Henry T. Lewis, & M. Kat Anderson. [eds.] 2002.
Forgotten Fires - Native Americans and the Transient Wilderness. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK. 364 p. ISBN 0-8061-3423- 2 [hard cover] Price: US$ 39.95

As I was reading the last chapter of Forgotten Fires, which describes the forests of California from 1500s to the early 20th century, the worst fires in California's history were still raging out of control. Stewart's book explains why current fires are far more intense than those of the 1500s.

Forgotten Fires is compelling to read - it should be mandatory reading in college for everyone whether they are in natural resources, finance, insurance, education, transportation, urban planning, land management, law, medicine or any other profession. Public decision makers and land managers need to read this book to understand that the suppression of fire by control does not result in elimination of fire. The elimination of fuel results in the elimination of fire. Just as Aldo Leopold's Sand County Almanac changed the way we looked at the land and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring changed our perception of environmental pollution, Forgotten Fires has the potential to change our perception of landscape wild fires.

Stewart, the original manuscript author, an anthropologist by profession, developed a deep interest in the use of fire by the early Native Americans. Co-editors Lewis and Anderson write three chapters of introductory material. Lewis, an anthropologist, outlines the process of bringing the book to publication and critiques the anthropological aspects of the book. Anderson writes a chapter which brings the ecological importance of the book up to date. The first chapter cowritten by the two editors, documents the long and arduous path to publication (well over three decades) of over 750 page long original manuscript of which this book is the culmination. Along the way, Stewart faced criticism from his peers and colleagues and was marginalized as a credible anthropologist. Contrary to this criticism, his work is extensively researched and supported by 583 reference citations. Lewis and Anderson further add 296 citations for their 3 chapters.

The introductory chapters by Lewis and Anderson illuminate the controversial nature of Stewart's central thesis Native Americans were not benign inhabitants of the landscape but, through the repeated and deliberate use of fire for 10,000 to 20,000 years, shaped the ecological communities of North America and their climax state. Although Stewart is an anthropologist, he repeatedly cites the work and disagrees with the conclusions of prominent ecologists, such as Clements and Weaver, who shaped the viewpoints of ecologists for decades to come regarding the prevalent climax communities.

Stewart divides North America into three major groupings Eastern Woodlands, Prairies and Plains, and the Mountain West. Each grouping is further subdivided, in many instances down to specific states. The description of fire history and use for each local area proceeds from the earliest historical time period - around 1500 to mid-1900s, when Stewart completed the research for his paper.

Stewart also describes how different tribal groups utilized fire. Virtually all of the Native American tribes, from the East Coast to the West Coast, utilized fire extensively and for many of the same reasons. Early anthropological thinking suggested that Native Americans only used fire for cooking and warmth and perhaps very isolated clearing around semipermanent residence areas. Stewart's work reveals an entirely different and more widespread, aggressive, planned and systematic use of fire. Fires were set to clear out underbrush to allow easier travel, make game more visible for harvest, drive game to concentrated points for easier harvest, increase the productivity and nutrient content of grasses as well berry and nut producing shrub and trees, control destructive and nuisance insects, reduce cover that would shield enemies, reduce fuel loads and lower the intensity of fiers, and maintain grasslands by using fire to control the spread of woodland. Contrary to the notion held by early settlers of the "ignorant savage", Native Americans were extraordinarily knowledgeable and sophisticated in the purpose and use of fire for managing vegetation and enhancing nutrients and productivity. It was only after pioneer settlement that widespread use of fire by Native Americans was curtailed.

The plant community successional work completed by the early ecologists, according to Stewart's research, was not reflective of undisturbed landscapes, but was actually a "disturbed" landscape due to the elimination of the 10,000 to 20,000 year cycle of deliberately set fires.

Sewart also looked at the evidence pertaining to lightning- indiced fire frequencies and whether lightning occurred frequently enough to explain plant community climaxes. In nearly all instances, the documented evidence of lightning frequency was not consistent with other evidence, suggesting more frequent fire occurrences. Also, fires occurred in some locations far more frequently and at the times of the year when lightning fires were not likely to occur.

As with any work of this type, there are potential points of criticism. I have read extensively about fire history in Minnesota and disagree with Stewart's statement that when "brush accumulates ... fires which inevitably came, were much more destructive ...." In fact the Cloquet and Hinckley [California] fires referred to were the result of vast accumulation of residual logging slash which created a catastrophe waiting to happen. Brush growth was a minor factor.

A lesson to be learned from Forgotten Fires is that unburned fuel, whether in California, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, or any other location is a catastrophe waiting to happen. Fire management, as Native Americans discovered millennia ago, is a matter of fuel reduction, not fire suppression.

Most individuals reading this book will likely find some aspects to take issue with, but the book's fundamental message cannot be ignored. The use of fire by the early Native Americans had a significant impact on the entire ecological landscape of North America. Plant communities were in a subclimax state, maintained in that condition by the frequent and repeated use of fire for a variety of purposes by the Native Americans. The work of Stewart needs to be seriously examined and significant efforts at subsequent research need to be directed at better understanding the role of repeated fires in shaping the past and current development of the landscape.

[Note: The same issue of the Natural Areas Journal (February 2004) also brought a review of the 2002 book Flammable Australia: The Fire Regimes and Biodiversity of a Continent edited by Bradstock, Ross A. et al., and published by the Cambridge University Press, NY.]