CSUB biology professor awarded $25,000 grant from National Parks Service

April 29, 2008
Kathy Miller, 661/654-2456, kmiller26@csub.edu or
Michele Newel, 661/654-2720, mnewell1@csub.edu
Biology Professor Awarded Photo

Brandon Pratt, a California State University, Bakersfield biology professor, was recently awarded $25,000 by the National Parks Service to study the post-fire regeneration of wildland vegetation in the Santa Monica Mountains in southern California.

Pratt's proposal was selected for funding because fires are a primary management issue for the National Parks Service, which manages a large portion of the public lands in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA).

The study by Pratt, in collaboration with Stephen Davis of Pepperdine University, will "help to fill in some gaps in our knowledge about how plants regenerate post-fire and what the limits to this natural regeneration process may be," Pratt detailed.

The funds from the grant will be used to support students working in Pratt's lab who are making a range of measurements in an effort to uncover what traits facilitate post-fire survival.

"Fire is a natural and recurrent disturbance across large parts of the globe," he said. "In many areas, fire frequency is increasing due to human ignitions (accidental and intentional) in expanding urban areas, invasion of non-native species, climate change, and due changes in land use.

"Understanding how native vegetation responds to fire will become increasingly important for predicting how wildland ecosystems will change in response to these altered fire regimes, and how best to manage wildlands in a state of heightened disturbance. In addition, an understanding of the plant traits that facilitate population recovery post-fire is essential for understanding the ecology and evolution of plant species and communities."

Pratt said the work already under way is helping to inform managers and scientists about what the future may hold for our wildland vegetation. So far, the work points to an interaction between vegetation recovery post-fire and the recent droughts that have gripped the southwestern United States.

Some plant populations in the SMMNRA are showing death rates of as much as 60 percent, and the data collected by Pratt and his students suggest that drought is a chief culprit. Continued monitoring for the next year will help to discern why so many of the plants are dying and what the causes might be.

For more information, contact Pratt at (661) 654-2033.