Date of Graduation

Spring 5-18-2018

Document Type

Project/Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Management (MSEM)

College/School

College of Arts and Sciences

Department/Program

Environmental Management

First Advisor

Amalia Kokkinaki

Abstract

Acknowledging recent wildfires that have set historic fire size records in both Northern and Southern California, it is important to understand what impacts can be expected and how variations in regional characteristics can influence fire severity. Combining a long history of droughts alongside periodic rain events this paper considers the causal fire relationships and fire management strategies necessary for implementation for future fire size and fire severity reduction in Sonoma County. Throughout this paper a subset of questions are answered regarding fire severity, precipitation, erosion and sediment response. Methods include the examination of peer-reviewed articles and grey sources to identify fire characteristics in relation to severity and region, habitat resilience and ability for self-restoration, and impacts that have been seen in areas following a fire. A comparative analysis was then made to assess the correlation between topography, soil burn severity, precipitation, vegetative cover, and acreage burned in order to determine the most suitable fire management practices to reduce severity and future fire occurrence. Data collected has been synthesized and presented throughout the paper in synthesis tables for additional examination and understanding. Further research included within this paper is an examination of various post-fire management measures and strategies to identify those most suitable for Sonoma County. In Sonoma County regional characteristics influence post-fire management practices, while the relationships between fire severity, soil composition, habitat and precipitation shape impacts. Analysis of average annual rainfall, average elevation, average elevation change, vegetative cover and soil burn severity were completed for seven fires. No correlation was identified between average annual rainfall and acreage burned. For both average elevation and average elevation change, acreage burned increased with increasing elevation and elevational change. All fires evaluated were in chaparral regions. Soil burn severity analysis found that severity tends to be distributed similarly among fires, with the greatest percentage of land having unburned or low severity, followed by moderate and high burn severity. Recommendations include the utilization of community education and awareness programs, wildland fire use and prescribed fire as fire management strategies to protect and prevent against large, severe and economically burdening fires.

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