U.S. Joint Fire Science Program


Date of this Version


Document Type



Final Report JFSP ID # 10-1-09-3


US government work.


This study brought together a team of ecologists, archaeologists, environmental historians, indigenous peoples, and land managers within a research framework combining an ethnographic investigation of traditional practices with cutting-edge paleoecological techniques to answer questions about Indian utilization of fire as an ecological and cultural landscape management tool in Central Coastal California. The study was designed around four key elements: (1) examining fire regimes for research sites using a combination of fire scar dendrochronology, phytoliths, archaeology, historical information, and traditional ecological knowledge; (2) attempting to formalize a methodology for using phytoliths to estimate the fire return interval and intensity in grassland ecosystems; (3) conducting a successful prescribed burn to demonstrate the reintroduction of fire and cultural practices to a rare deergrass field in Pinnacles National Park, and; (4) developing, documenting and disseminating compelling educational materials via a diversity of venues for a wide audience. Based on ethnographic and dendroecological information, we identified a strong relationship between pre-colonial societies and fire frequency, while our investigations of phytoliths and archaeology supported the need for additional research in these areas. Study results can be used to inform fire management practices (particularly prescribed burning) at sites within the study area and the knowledge gained will be extensively shared with academics, tribes, land managers, and the public.