The Emerald Fire

(maybe add photos of resprouts and fire followers)

The Emerald Fire of 2022 burned 155 acres of hillside in and adjacent to Crystal Cove State Park, Orange County up-slope of the Emerald Bay and Irvine Cove communities. The new “normal” in California now looks like more frequent and more intense wildfires than previous decades. However, fire has been part of the landscape for thousands of years, and many of California’s ecosystems have adapted to fire. California coastal sage scrub environments are well-adapted to periodic fires every 10 to 20 years which help stimulate the soil’s seed bank and cause shrubs to resprout from the burned remains. Unfortunately, in California and other places around the world, fire return intervals are becoming much shorter due to changing climate conditions and urbanization. Coastal sage scrub specifically has faced devastating habitat loss throughout the state, and frequent fires could contribute to even more loss of this endangered habitat if it is not conserved or restored.

Fortunately, the 2022 Emerald Fire was preceded most recently only by the Laguna Beach Fire in 1993. Thanks to State Parks’ management, volunteers, and others who aid in keeping Crystal Cove’s habitats in good shape, we expect to see great recovery of coastal sage scrub after this fire event.

The Project

(insert photo of sign) (include map pdf/image of burn site + camera locations?)

In conjunction with State Parks, Natural Resource Interns from Crystal Cove Conservancy installed photo monitoring sites at two locations along the Moro Ridge Trail in August 2022 with the goal of observing long-term, landscape-level habitat recovery from the fire. By taking photos and posting to social media, visitors are contributing to a three-year long qualitative study of vegetation regrowth and change after the 2022 Emerald Fire. Using this photo data, Park managers can examine patterns of change in regrowth after fire over time, highlighting areas that may need more help recovering such as areas overcome with invasive plants or areas that have low vegetation density compared to healthy coastal sage scrub habitat. (insert photo of sign) (include map pdf/image of burn site + camera locations?)

Take a pass through the slider below to see the progression of habitat recovery at the Emerald Fire site!

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