Ministry of Labour and Citizens' Services

Wildfire Response and Recovery


John Karakatsoulis

John Karakatsoulis is the Department Chair of Natural Resource Sciences at the University College of the Cariboo (soon to be called Thompson Rivers University). John has been teaching Forest Ecology and Silviculture at UCC since 1992 and has been involved in ecophysiology and successional / disturbance research for the last 18 years. Present research involves studying the vegetation recovery on seeded and non-seeded sites within burnt areas of the 2003 wildfires (Kamloops Forest District).

Presentation Summary:
Post-fire aerial seeding is an emergency strategy that has been used for decades as a common rehabilitation treatment throughout Western North America to aid in the revegetation of areas burned by wildfires (Robichaud et. al. 2001). In the United States, post-fire seeding is often done as part of the Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER) strategy for stabilizing hill slopes (Robichaud et. al. 2000). Aerial seeding is done by aircraft, and can incur some of the greatest costs of BAER projects (Howes 1999).

In the summer of 2003, British Columbia experienced fifteen major wildfires. Some areas in the Southern Interior also experienced the worst drought in 100 years (Filmon 2003). Two of the fifteen fires were in close proximity to Kamloops: McLure and McGillivray. The McLure Fire was the second largest fire in the province, covering 29,202 ha; the McGillivray fire covered 11,400 ha (Filmon 2003). These fires burned very intensely, removing natural vegetation in their wake and exposing mineral soil.

Around the Kamloops area, issues such as erosion and spread of noxious weeds were brought forward as a result of extensive tracts of exposed mineral soil following the fires. As well, the fires burned many steep sections of ground raising concerns about erosion. In an effort to try and manage for these issues the Ministry of Forests out of Kamloops implemented an aerial seeding program to try and help kick-start revegatation on many of the burned areas which were in danger of erosion and weed spread. The majority of the seeding was done in November of 2003, before snowfall. Four different seeding mixes were used to address each of four main goals: to inhibit the spread of noxious weeds, decrease the extent of erosion, ensure the establishment of native forage for wildlife, and increase the quantity and quality of forage for livestock on Crown land. The four resulting seed mixes were thus labelled weed mix, erosion mix, forage mix, and wildlife mix.

The seed mixes created for each of the above goals were composed mainly of non-native species, except in the case of the wildlife forage mix, which included two native grass species. It is important to note that the weed control and the erosion control mixes were essentially the same, the only difference being that the erosion control mix was applied at a higher density than the weed control mix.

All grass species in the mixes are agronomic species, with the exception of Koeleria macrantha and Agropyron spicatum, which were added to the wildlife mix. It is not unusual for post-fire seed mixes to be largely comprised of non-native grass species because they are less costly and in greater supply than native grasses (Schoennagel and Waller 1999). Since such a large area was seeded it was not economically feasible to seed with only native species.

It has been well documented that, although much post-fire seeding occurs, little quantitative monitoring occurs to asses whether or not the seeding was effective (Robichaud 2000). Since post-fire aerial seeding can be an expensive endeavour, it is important to determine whether or not it is economically and ecologically feasible.

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