New growth sprouting from charred vegetation burned in wildfires

Ecology and Wildfire

COSCA’s Guiding Principle #2

Manage open space areas so they are affected primarily by natural processes, with the imprint of human use and modifications substantially unnoticeable, and preserve, restore, and protect ecologic, geologic, scenic, historic, cultural, scientific, and educational values.

The Conejo Valley is dominated by chaparral and coastal sage scrub (CSS) plant communities, and these are vital in providing for both wildlife and people. This video from the National Forest Service explains the many values of our local vegetation communities, their value to people and wildlife, and the impacts of fire.

Periodic wildfires are a natural process in the Conejo Valley’s landscape. Our woody chaparral and coastal sage scrub (CSS) vegetation communities have evolved in a climate that includes long dry periods and warm temperatures. These factors contribute to an environment where heat and dry vegetation are present for much of each year and are vulnerable to ignitions. In nature, the only source of ignition is lightning, and lightning strikes are rare in Southern California. Historically, the natural recurrence interval of wildfires in southern California ranged from 30-100 years.

Our native vegetation communities have adapted to this fire regime and are resilient in recovering from fires that are spaced out over long time periods. Generally, local plant species have adapted by developing the capacity to re-sprout from energy stored in the root crowns and by generating extensive seed banks in the soil. Both adaptation strategies rely on the long time periods between natural fires to store energy and produce seeds.

Frequent fires are not a natural feature of our landscape, and shorter fire recurrence intervals are a threat to native plant communities because they interfere with the recovery process. Frequent fires favor invasive non-native plant species and degrade wildlife habitats. This is one reason that COSCA does not engage in prescribed burning in shrubland habitats.

COSCA implements management practices designed to reduce fire frequencies and allow burned landscapes to recover. Some of these include:

Maintaining fuel reduction / defensible space zones adjacent to neighboring homes

Active suppression of invasive plant species in priority recovery zones

Active restoration of native plant communities

Community outreach related to fire safety

Strategic closure of open space areas during high fire risk conditions to reduce ignitions

Wildfires also impact our human community. For more information on COSCA’s fire safety programs, see our Community Wildfire Safety Page.