Burn succession, Asx‘ée, twisted tree
On May 9th, 2020, some camper-kids with lighters ignited a pretty dramatic grassfire at Crow Point. Koren Bosworth happened to be out there hiking and sent me some photos. On June 10, a month later, I asked her to show me where the Asx‘ée fire began and ended. I flew and mapped the 9.2-acre burn, and posted this 6-minute slideshow. Below, you’ll also find a link to my 14-page journal with more detail about succession, and the long-term implications of meadow fires in coastal uplift communities.
When Koren told me about the burn on the day it happened, my first concern was that it might enable spruce capture. In 1982—my third spring living on the delta—picnickers accidentally burned 2.5 acres on the outer ridge. It was on May 9th—exactly the date of this year’s larger fire—and statistically probably the driest week of the year. I remember lots of spruce seedlings springing up within that burn in following years. I wish now that I’d mapped em more carefully. About half of the 2.5 acres were subsequently lost to doghair spruce, and another quarter was buried under wave-dumped sand.
Sitka spruce of course is an awesome tree, but I prefer not to see it replacing uplift meadow. This slideshow and journal are about the meadow-forest seesaw, which, surprisingly, has a lot to do with cigarette lighters.
Working with old maps and aerials from my Scout Camp days sent me to a sort of document-in-limbo, my Eagle Beach Maps collection. The version currently downloadable from JuneauNature is an old, 2008 facing-pages version, and I’d forgotten that a couple years ago, I started reformatting to single-page landscape, but stalled out and left it unfinished. I’ve been pecking away at that old/new document, and when it’s fully updated will provide the link here.
Although I’m of course slightly biased, Asx‘ée is a strong contender for what ecologist Chris Fastie once nominated as the “center of the universe.” I hope my notes and drawings and photos and maps can someday do it justice.