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Wildflowers growing in Stebbins Cold Canyon highlight nature's recuperative powers. Chris Niccolini, UC Davis/Courtesy photo

New perspectives after hiking in a burned landscape

When hikers returned to  in 2016, a year after a wildfire swept through its expanse of oak trees and chaparral in Northern California, half of them expected to see a devastated landscape. But pre- and post-hike surveys conducted by UC Davis reveal that roughly a third returned energized, awed and excited about the changes they saw.

Among the survey responses: “This area is restoring itself.” “Awe-inspiring.” “Nature is always changing, sometimes sad. Today I felt hopeful.”

Results of the survey, , indicate that people understand and appreciate the role of fire in natural landscapes more than is perceived.

“People can have really largely positive experiences hiking in a place that has burned,” said lead author Alexandra Weill, who conducted the survey while a graduate student researcher in Professor Andrew Latimer’s lab in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. “They engage in it and find it very interesting and surprisingly beautiful. That can be used as a tool in education and outreach as places around us recover from wildfire.”

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Nuanced views

While positive responses were far more common than expected, most people held mixed views regarding effects of the fire. For example: “I know it’s good, but it’s sad when it’s out of control and people lose homes.” “I understand (it) needs to happen — but devastating!”

Such wariness is not surprising but it is illuminating, Weill said.

“People have more nuanced opinions than we give them credit for in understanding positive and negative effects of fire, but also difficulty in reconciling what they know about good fire versus what they see in the news or personal experiences,” said Weill.

365体育投注Stebbins Cold Canyon is part of the  and is operated by UC Davis.

The reserve is to the public following state and county stay-at-home directives related to COVID-19.

Located about 20 miles west of the main campus, university researchers and citizen scientists use the reserve as a field site and outdoor classroom. Seasonal springs provide watering areas for wildlife. When open, a public hiking trail leads roughly 50,000 hikers each year past grasslands, blue oaks, woodlands and chaparral, and up a ridgeline that offers sweeping views of Lake Berryessa. In July 2015, the Wragg Fire burned about 8,050 acres before it was fully contained two weeks later.

This study was funded by the UC Natural Reserve System.

— UC Davis News. Additional co-authors include Andrew Latimer and Lauren Watson of the UC Davis department of plant sciences.

CalMatters


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