In an effort to mitigate the destructive effects of sudden oak death (SOD) on Mt. Tamalpais’ forests, the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) has begun an exciting new study: the Resilient Forests Project.
Massive die-off of native tan oak and live oak trees has increased wildfire fuel loads on the mountain and diminished habitat values. To launch the study, a series of experimental forest manipulations will be conducted on 30 acres of MMWD land during the late summer and fall of 2015. The experimental plots will be monitored for the next five years.
The project includes thinning and removing dead and down fuel and other live material to measure improved wildfire resiliency, carbon retention, habitat values, aesthetics, and water yield in forests that have been most impacted by SOD. Under current forest conditions fuel loads are such that wildfire would be catastrophic with severe impacts to water quality and would likely erase the carbon stored in the forest.
“By reducing the fuel loads and opening growing space for remaining redwood trees, we hope to see a healthier forest that can survive a wildfire, do a better job of capturing carbon, and possibly yield more clean water on the watershed,” said MMWD project lead Janet Klein.
The Resilient Forests Project is a joint undertaking with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station and the University of California, Davis departments of Plant Pathology and Land, Air and Water Resources. MMWD has provided $62,400 in funding for the collection of baseline data and will assume the lead on the installation of the plot treatments.
The UC Davis team, in combination with the U.S. Forest Service, has submitted a grant proposal to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program to fund monitoring and data analysis for the next five years.
Additional support for the Resilient Forests Project is anticipated from the Tamalpais Lands Collaborative (TLC), a new partnership that seeks to raise awareness about the need to maintain the long-term health of Mt. Tam. Specifically, the TLC will assist with seed collection and propagation of plants used in revegetation trials that are part of the project. Talks are also underway with both the National Park Service and Marin County Parks regarding the installation of experimental plots on non-MMWD lands in Marin County.
MMWD’s participation in the Resilient Forests Project aligns with the district’s five-year strategic plan to continue environmental stewardship work by employing strategies that enhance ecosystem resiliency in the face of climate change.
MMWD is Marin County’s largest provider of drinking water, serving a population of 187,500 in a 147-square-mile area of south and central Marin County. The district owns and manages 21,635 acres of watershed land on Mt. Tamalpais and in west Marin. The primary source of water supply is rainfall captured in seven reservoirs, providing 75 percent of the water consumed each year. The remaining 25 percent is imported annually from the Russian River through an agreement with the Sonoma County Water Agency. MMWD also operates its own recycled water system. District operations are financed primarily by revenue from the sale of water. The annual operating budget for the district for fiscal year 2015-16 is $66.8 million.
Media Contact: Emma Detwiler