Ministry of Labour and Citizens' Services

Wildfire Response and Recovery

Nuntsi Provincial Park Research Plots

Kristi Iverson

Kristi E. Iverson is a Registered Professional Biologist with Iverson & MacKenzie Biological Consulting Ltd. She has ten years of experience working as a plant ecologist in British Columbia. She completed a co-op Bachelor of Science degree in Biology at the University of Victoria in 1994. Kristi worked for the Ministry of Forests’ Cariboo Research Section for several years on ecology research and developed a preliminary grassland classification for the Bunchgrass and Interior Douglas-fir Biogeoclimatic zones in the Cariboo Region. During the past eight years, Kristi has consulted to a variety of clients in the interior of British Columbia in grassland, forest, and wetland ecosystem management, inventory, and research. Kristi’s recent work has focused on fire history, restoration and management of grasslands and Interior Douglas-fir forests. Her work has included prescribed burn planning and monitoring of vegetation, fuels, and forest structure.

Presentation Summary: The Chilko fire of 2003 burned 90% of Nuntsi Provincial Park; most forest was burned with high fire severity and total crown consumption. Numerous wetlands had peat fires the carried over into winter until extinguished by local volunteers. The park occurs within the SBPSxc biogeoclimatic subzone and is characterized by a cold, dry climate and a gently undulating plateau landscape. Historical fire return intervals were 45 years and fires were mixed severity.

In fall 2003 and summer 2004 we established 15 post-fire monitoring plots in high, moderate, and low severity, and unburned mesic forests, in burned and unburned fens and wet meadows, on bladed and unbladed fire guards and in a cutblock outside of the park. In 2004, we monitored the forest structure, fuels, and vegetation in these plots.

Initial vegetation response in forested ecosystems indicates that vascular vegetation will recover quite quickly, particularly perennial plants with underground structures that were able to survive the fire including shrubs, pinegrass and other perennial plants. Most shrubs resprouted following fire; pinegrass also resprouted and was very vigorous with lots of seed heads. Kinnickinnick cover decreased with increasing fire severity. American dragonhead, a plant that apparently seed-banks and requires heat to germinate appeared on burned sites and fire guards. Most lichens were killed by fire and mosses shifted from feathermoss species to pioneer moss species. Consumption of duff was proportional to fire severity and duff was completely consumed on severely burned sites. Fireguards were seeded but there was minimal establishment of seeded species and much higher covers of native species. Seeding of fireguards appears unnecessary given the lack of noxious weeds in the area, gentle slopes not susceptible to erosion, and good establishment of native plants.

Unburned wet meadows show species compositions that reflect overgrazing by feral horses. There had been no recovery of vegetation in severely burned wetland sites. These sites may become open water when water table levels recover. Peat fires may have been important components of wetland succession that maintained open water and marsh habitat important for many wildlife species.

Return to the Fire Research Forum
Return To Wildfire Response and Recovery