Fire on the California Islands: Does it Play a Role in Chaparral and Closed Cone Pine Forest Habitats?

Despite the importance of fire in the maintenance of chaparral and closed-cone pine forests on the mainland, there have been only three documented lightning-caused fires in such habitats on the islands during the past 140 yr. We examine evidence for prehistoric fires, as well as the post-fire response of chaparral vegetation to human-caused fire on Santa Catalina Island. In addition, results of seed germination comparisons between island and mainland chaparral species suggest that, although island seeds exhibit a vigorous response to heat and fire treatments, some species also show significant germination under control conditions.