Research and Management Support

Members of the Safford lab have been heavily involved in documenting trends in fire and vegetation, and their interactions with climate and management over the last century in California. Examples include trends in fire severity and area and their connection to management and climate (Safford et al. 2008, Miller et al. 2009, Miller et al. 2012, Miller and Safford 2012, Mallek et al. 2013, Steel et al. 2015); trends in fire frequency and their variation in space and time (Van de Water and Safford 2012, Safford and Van de Water 2014); trends in forest structure and composition and their relationship to changing climate and landuse (Dolanc et al. 2013a, 2014); and environmental trends and their effects on fire, vegetation, and management (Safford et al. 2012a,b). DSC_0711One of our most important initiatives has been to inventory postfire regeneration of tree species in dozens of fires around California. This work is just beginning to result in publications (Kevin Welch et al., in prep.; Clark Richter, study in progress). Together with the Regional Ecology Progam staff, we recently completed assessments of the natural range of variation (NRV) for major terrestrial ecosystem types in the Sierra Nevada (Safford and Stevens, in press). These documents are fundamental building blocks for the new National Forest plans being developed in California.

The relationships between ecosystem productivity and disturbance and their interactive (and isolated) effects on biodiversity are a major focus of the Safford lab. We have worked for years in vegetation of ultramafic (“serpentine”) soils, using them as a model system to study how productivity gradients affect disturbance effects on species. Field studies include grazing effects on plant diversity (Safford and Harrison 2001, Harrison et al. 2003) and fire effects on diversity and ecosystem structure (Safford and Harrison 2004, 2008; DeSiervo et al. 2015). Safford and Mallek (2010) reviewed the research on this general subject. We are also heavily involved in studies of forest management effects on plant diversity, including the effects of forest thinning and prescribed fire (Stevens et al. 2014, 2015; Winford et al. 2015), and the effects of postfire management (Bohlman et al., in review; Kristen Shive, study in progress). More recently, we are studying the effects of fire severity and environmental covariates on plant diversity (DeSiervo et al. 2015, Stevens et al. 2015; Clark Richter, study in progress; Jonah Weeks, study in progress). Using fires in the Sierra Nevada, Zack Steel is partnering with Point Blue Conservation Science to study the effects of fire severity on bird and bat diversity.

The Safford lab has collaborated with partners to use historical forest inventory data to test the ability of species distribution models to accurately predict future conditions for hundreds of California species, and we have explicitly explored the role of fire in driving model results and actual species responses (Dobrowski et al. 2011, Crimmins et al. 2014). We have investigated the possible future impacts of climate change and fire on the distribution of sensitive, management indicator species in California (Lawler et al. 2012). We have also compared model projections with actual trends in high elevation forests (Dolanc et al. 2013a), and we have developed models of growth-climate relationships in high elevation species that can be used as a basis for future projections (Dolanc et al. 2013b). In southern California, we have worked with partners to better characterize the nature of wildfires, with the aim of informing the development of environmentally sensitive but effective fuel management strategies that can deal with projected future increases in fire activity (Safford 2007b, Keeley et al. 2009, Safford and Van de Water 2014).

In concert with the Regional Ecology Program, the Safford lab plays an important role in Forest Service efforts to develop management strategies and plans that increase ecosystem resilience; protect and sustain key species, resources, and ecosystem services; and maximize management flexibility in the face of rapid and often unpredictable environmental change (e.g., Hayward et al. 2009, Richardson et al. 2009, Schwartz et al. 2012, Wiens et al. 2012). We have demonstrated that forest fuel treatments, when properly employed, can play an important role in reducing forest mortality to wildfire, in maintaining living stocks of carbon in fire-prone forests, and in restoring forest structure (Safford et al. 2009, 2012c, Carlson et al. 2012, Winford et al. 2015). We have played and continue to play a key role in the Forest Planning process in California, and we recently helped to develop a postfire management strategy template for National Forests involved in restoration of severely burned areas. The Safford lab is also engaged in numerous international projects. These include ecology and paleohistorical reconstructions of mountain ecosystems in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest (Safford 2001, 2007a; Behling and Safford 2010, Veríssimo et al. 2012, etc.), forest structure and fire severity in Mexican conifer forests (Dunbar-Irwin and Safford 2016; Hiram Rivera et al., in prep.), and postfire succession of serotinous conifers in Turkey (Kavgaçι et al., in review). We are currently expanding our collaborations with the Mexican Park Service (CONANP) and Forest Service (CONAFOR) in ecology and management of Baja California forested ecosystems. Ongoing work includes fire severity mapping and fuels management in the northern Baja California national parks (Hiram Rivera), field calibration of LiDAR data in the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir (Haley Wiggins), and use of non-fire suppressed Mexican forests to test the validity of using early forest survey data from the US to estimate forest conditions (Christina Restaino).

Most of our international work is technical assistance and does not result in peer-reviewed publications. Recent examples include helping to run the International Seminar on Climate Change and Natural Resource Management, a joint project with UC-Davis and the US Forest Service International Programs office (Safford); studying postfire restoration tactics in Greece and Iberia (Safford and Shive); consulting with the Brazilian Park Service (ICM-Bio) on climate change adaptation options in mountain ecosystems (Safford); providing field vegetation inventory training to managers in Lebanon (Gabrielle Bohlman); and reviewing fuel treatments and forest management practices in Israel (Safford).

Literature cited (click on first author last name for PDF)

Behling, H., and H.D. Safford. 2010. Late-glacial and Holocene vegetation, climate and fire dynamics in the Serra dos Órgãos, Rio de Janeiro State, southeastern Brazil. Global Change Biology 16: 1661-1671.

Bohlman, G.N., M.P. North, and H.D. Safford. In review. Shrub control in reforested postfire areas increases plant species richness.

Carlson, C.H., S. Z. Dobrowksi, and H.D. Safford. 2012. Variation in tree mortality and regeneration affect forest carbon recovery following fuel treatments and wildfire in the Lake

Tahoe Basin, California, USA. Carbon Balance and Management 7: 7. doi:10.1186/1750-0680- 7-7

Crimmins, S., S.Z. Dobrowski, A. Mynsberge, and H.D. Safford. 2014. Can fire atlas data improve species distribution model projections through time? Ecological Applications 24: 1057- 1069.

DeSiervo, M.H., E. Jules, and H.D. Safford. 2015. Disturbance response across a productivity gradient: postfire vegetation in serpentine and non-serpentine forests. Ecosphere 6(4): Article 60.

Dolanc, C.R., H.D. Safford, S.Z. Dobrowksi, and J.H. Thorne. 2014. Twentieth century shifts in abundance and composition of vegetation types of the Sierra Nevada, CA, USA. Applied Vegetation Science 17: 442-455.

Dolanc, C. R., J. H. Thorne, and H. D. Safford. 2013a. Widespread shifts in the demographic structure of subalpine conifers in the Sierra Nevada, California, 1934 to 2007. Global Ecology and Biogeography 22: 264-276.

Dolanc, C.R., R. Westfall, H.D. Safford, J.H. Thorne, and M. Schwartz. 2013b. Growth-climate relationships for six subalpine tree species of the central Sierra Nevada, CA, USA. Canadian Journal of Forestry 43: 1114-1126.

Dobrowski, S. Z., J. H. Thorne, J. A. Greenberg, H. D. Safford, A. R. Mynsberge, S. M. Crimmin, and A. K. Swanson. 2011. Modeling plant ranges over 75 years of measured climate change in California, USA: temporal transferability and species traits. Ecological Monographs 81: 241-257.

Dobrowski, S. Z., Safford, H. D., Rueda, C., and Ustin, S. 2008. Mapping mountain vegetation using species distribution modeling, image-based texture analysis, and object-based classification. Applied Vegetation Science 11: 499-508.

Dunbar-Irwin, M., and H.D. Safford. 2016. Climatic and structural comparison of yellow pine and mixed-conifer forests in northern Baja California (México) and the eastern Sierra Nevada (California, USA). Forest Ecology and Management 363: 252-266

Harrison, S. P., Inouye, B., and Safford, H. D. 2003. Ecological heterogeneity in the effects of grazing and fire on grassland diversity. Conservation Biology 17: 837-845.

Hayward, G. D., C. H. Flather, E. Uloth, H. D. Safford and D. A. Cleaves. 2009. Managing fish and wildlife habitat in the face of climate change: USDA Forest Service perspective. Transactions of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference 74: 98-109.

Kavgaçι, A., E. Örtel, I. Torres, and H. Safford. In review. The effects of fire type, pre-fire stand type and aspect on post-fire succession of Pinus brutia forests.

Keeley, J. E., Safford, H. D., Fotheringham, C. J., Franklin, J., and Moritz, M. A. 2009. The 2007 Southern California wildfires: lessons in complexity. Journal of Forestry 107: 287-296.

Lawler, J. J., H. D. Safford, and E. H. Girvetz. 2012. Martens and fishers in a changing climate. Pp. 371-397, in K. B. Aubry (ed). Biology and Conservation of Martens, Sables, and Fishers: a New Synthesis. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.

Meyer, M. D., and H. D. Safford. 2011. Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) regeneration in groves exposed to wildfire and retention harvest in the southern Sierra Nevada. Fire Ecology 7(2): 2-16.

Miller, J. D., and Safford, H. D. 2008. Sierra Nevada fire severity monitoring 1984-2004. Publication R5-TP-027. USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region, Vallejo, CA, USA.

Miller, J.D., and H.D. Safford. 2012. Trends in wildfire severity 1984-2010 in the Sierra Nevada, Modoc Plateau and southern Cascades, California, USA. Fire Ecology 8: 41-57.

Miller, J. D., Safford, H. D., Crimmins, M., and Thode, A. E. 2009. Quantitative evidence forincreasing forest fire severity in the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade Mountains, Californiaand Nevada, USA. Ecosystems 12: 16-32

Miller, J. D., C. N. Skinner, H. D. Safford, E. E. Knapp, and C. M. Ramirez. 2012. Trends and causes of severity, size, and number of fires in northwestern California, USA. Ecological Applications 22: 184-203.

Richardson, D. M., J. J. Hellmann, J. McLachlan, D. F. Sax, M. W. Schwartz, J. Brennan, P. Gonzalez, T. Root, O. Sala, S. H. Schneider, D. Ashe, A. Camacho, J. R. Clark, R. Early, J. Etterson, D. Fielder, J. Gill, B. A. Minteer, S. Polasky, H. Safford, A. Thompson, and M. Vellend. 2009. Multidimensional evaluation of managed relocation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 9721-9724.

Safford, H. D. 2001. Brazilian páramos III. Patterns and rates of postfire regeneration in the campos de altitude. Biotropica 33: 282-302.

Safford, H. D. 2007a. Brazilian páramos IV. Phytogeography of the campos de altitude. Journal of Biogeography 34: 1701-1722.

Safford, H. D. 2007b. Man and fire in Southern California: doing the math. Fremontia 35(4): 25- 29.

Safford, H. D. 2008. Fire and ultramafic vegetation in northern California. In: 6th International Conference on Serpentine Ecology, Program and Abstracts (N. Rajakaruna, et al., org.), p. 6. College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, Maine, USA.

Safford, H. D., Betancourt, J. L., Hayward, G. D., Wiens, J.A, and Regan, C.A. 2008. Land management in the Anthropocene: is history still relevant? Eos 89: 343.

Safford, H. D., and Harrison, S. P. 2001. Grazing and substrate interact to affect native vs. exotic diversity in roadside grasslands. Ecological Applications 11: 1112-1122.

Safford, H. D., and Harrison, S. P. 2004. Fire effects on plant diversity in serpentine versus sandstone chaparral. Ecology 85: 539-548.

Safford, H. D., and Harrison, S. P. 2008. The effects of fire on serpentine vegetation and implications for management. Proceedings of the 2002 Fire Conference on Managing Fire and Fuels in the Remaining Wildlands and Open Spaces of the Southwestern United States. December 2-5, 2002, San Diego, CA. General Technical Report PSW-189. USDA-Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Albany, CA, USA.

Safford, H. D., G. Hayward, N. Heller, and J. A. Wiens. 2012a. Climate change and historical ecology: can the past still inform the future? Pp. 46-62, in: J. A. Wiens, G. Hayward, H. D.

Safford, and C.M. Giffen (eds). Historical environmental variation in conservation and natural resource management. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY.

Safford, H. D., Hellmann, J. J., McLachlan, J., Sax, D. F., and Schwartz, M. W. 2009. Managed relocation of species: Noah’s ark or Pandora’s box? Eos 90: 15.

Safford, H. D., and C. R. Mallek. 2010. Disturbance and diversity in low productivity ecosystems. Pp.249- 274, in: S. P. Harrison and N. Rajakaruna (eds). Serpentine. The evolution and ecology of a model system. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Safford, H. D., Miller, J., Schmidt, D., Roath, B., and Parsons, A. 2008. BAER soil burn severity maps do not measure fire effects to vegetation: a comment on Odion and Hanson (2006). Ecosystems 11: 1-11

Safford, H. D., M. P. North, and M. D. Meyer. 2012b. Climate change and the relevance of historical forest conditions. Pp. 23 – 46, in: M. P. North, ed. Managing Sierra Nevada forests. General Technical Report GTR-PSW-237. USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station, Albany, CA.

Safford, H. D., D. A. Schmidt, and C. Carlson. 2009. Effects of fuel treatments on fire severity in an area of wildland-urban interface, Angora Fire, Lake Tahoe Basin, California. Forest Ecology and Management 258: 773-787.

Safford, H.D, and J.T. Stevens. 2015. Natural Range of Variation (NRV) for yellow pine and mixed conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada, southern Cascades, and Modoc and Inyo National Forests, California, USA. General Technical Report PSW-GTR-___, USDA Forest Service,Pacific Southwest Research Station, Albany, CA. In press.

Safford, H.D., J.T. Stevens, K. Merriam, M.D. Meyer, and A.M. Latimer. 2012c. Fuel treatment effectiveness in California yellow pine and mixed conifer forests. Forest Ecology and Management 274: 17-28.

Safford, H.D., and K.M. Van de Water. 2014. Using Fire Return Interval Departure (FRID) analysis to map spatial and temporal changes in fire frequency on National Forest lands in California. Research Paper PSW-RP-266, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Albany, CA.

Schwartz, M.W., Hellmann, J.J., McLachlan, J.M. , Sax, D.F., Borevitz, J.O., Brennan, J., Camacho, A.E. , Ceballos, G., Doremus, H., Early, R., Etterson, J.R., Gill, J., Gonzalez, P., Green, N., Hannah, L., Jamieson, D.W. , Javeline. D., Minteer, B.A., Odenbaugh, J., Polasky, S., Richardson, D.M., Root, T.L., Safford, H.D., Sala, O., Schneider, S.H., Thompson, A.R., Williams, J.W., Vellend, M., Vitt, P., and Zellmer, S. 2012. Managed relocation: integrating the scientific, regulatory and ethical challenges. Bioscience 62: 732-743

Steel, Z.L., H.D. Safford, and J.H. Viers. 2015. The fire frequency-severity relationship and the legacy of fire suppression in California forests. Ecosphere 6(1): Article 8

Stevens, J.T., H.D. Safford, S.P. Harrison, and A.M. Latimer. 2015. Forest disturbance accelerates thermophilization of understory plant communities. Journal of Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.12426

Stevens, J.T., H.D. Safford, and A.M. Latimer. 2014. Wildfire-contingent effects of fuel treatments can promote ecological resilience in dry mixed conifer forests. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 44: 843-854.

Van de Water, K. M., and H. D. Safford. 2011. A summary of fire frequency estimates for California vegetation before Euroamerican settlement. Fire Ecology 7(3): 26-58.

Verissimo, P., N., H. D. Safford, and H. Behling. 2012. Holocene vegetation and fire history of the Serra do Caparaó, SE Brazil. The Holocene 22: 1243-1250.

Wiens, J. A., G. Hayward, H. D. Safford, and C.M. Giffen (eds). 2012. Historical environmental variation in conservation and natural resource management. John Wiley and Sons, New York, NY. 337 p.

Winford, E.M., J.T. Stevens, and H.D. Safford. 2015. Fuel treatment impacts on the ecology of yellow pine and mixed conifer forests: a synthesis. California Agriculture. In press.

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