Cal Poly professor Matt Ritter will speak on Cambria’s forest and other iconic California plants at the regular Forest Committee meeting June 13, 6:30 pm, at Rabobank on Main Street. His talk is free and open to the public.

Monterey Pines are part of California’s iconic plants

He wrote his new book, California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora, to celebrate California’s rare flora. “It’s a call to action for conservation,” he said. “I can help people to understand it, enjoy it, and appreciate it. We are only going to preserve what we appreciate.”

Matt Ritter Author Photo

He’ll present a global overview of California’s plants, and the pressures on them as climate change impacts them. Cambria’s Monterey Pine forest is a case study on the impact of climate change.

“We don’t have control over the weather, but there are things we can do,” he said.

That’s his mission and passion, in his work as a professor at Cal Poly, writing his books and speaking out. Helping people learn about plants leads them to appreciate and enjoy them, and support conserving them.

“People recognize corporate logos, but so few recognize the plants in their locality,” he said. “When people get interested in things, they can make positive changes.”

Climate change and drought

The prolonged five-year drought took its toll on Cambria’s Monterey Pines, as it did on other species around the state.

“There are so many sick trees,” he said. “Every insect, every disease comes out of the woodwork. Marginal areas didn’t make it.”

Champion trees

As coordinator of the California Register of Big Trees Program, he keeps track of champion and heritage trees. Many that were on the list died during the drought, including the Monterey Pine champion in Monterey. The current champion Monterey Pine is in Point Lobos.

“Fires kill everything,” he said. “Longer acting environmental stressors, such as the drought, weed out the oldest and weakest individuals.”

Managing the forest

Invasive plants, tenacious survivors that can flourish as climate gets more erratic, crowd out native species. Without the native plants, the forest ecosystem suffers.

A forest manager could minimize the influence of invasive plants, by removing them before they get out of control, and plant indigenous plants to keep the forest healthy.

“A forest manager can do good work by paying attention to the health of the forest,” he said.  A forest manager can nip changes in the bud.  It’s one of the things we can do.”

Cambria does not have a forest manager, but the CCSD will discuss the benefits of hiring one at an upcoming board meeting.  A forest manager is recommended in the Cambria Forest Management Plan and the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan.

Ritter’s books

His academic writings focus on Eucalpytus trees, horticulture, ecology, and plant taxonomy.

Matt Ritter book cover

“My publications attempt to foster a sense of appreciation for California’s unique flora,” he said. “I believe in paying close attention, to looking at the beauty in the details. Life is rich when we take time to closely observe the organisms and processes around us. My natural history books have been attempts to reveal these natural wonders to my readers.”

Governor Jerry Brown wrote the forward to California Plants: A Guide to Our Iconic Flora. As of late May, it was the top selling plant book on Amazon. His books will be available for sale at the meeting and he will sign them.

” We can do better,” he said. “This is a fight that can be won.”

Forest Survey by Dr. Sarah Bisbing

Forestry professor Sarah Bisbing reported to us in January on  the effects of drought and disease on demographic processes in endemic Monterey pine.

Cambria’s rare Monterey Pine forest is changing as it is exposed to increasingly frequent droughts that stress trees. The forest is not dying, but responding to the stress of extreme climate conditions.

“The recent drought generally took out the weakest and oldest individuals,” said Sarah Bisbing, Ph.D, assistant professor of forestry at University of Nevada Reno, “but I’m not concerned about wholesale loss of Monterey Pine. We are continuing to see regeneration and growth in residual trees.”

Bisbing will present her findings at the Cambria Forest Committee meeting Wednesday, January 10, 6:30 pm at Rabobank. Her subject is: Drought and disease shape demographic processes in endemic Monterey pine.  The talk is free. The Committee’s Invasive Weed Guide will be available for sale, $8. Donations are always welcome. The Forest Committee is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization.

Bisbing is a forest ecologist who has made the forest the focus of her work. She studied data collected between 2001 and 2016 to determine what influenced which trees survived and which ones died.

Bisbing used a measure of climatic stress to evaluate how local climate and environmental factors drive tree response to changing conditions. This metric provides a surrogate for tree stress and is calculated using the local variables, such as total moisture, extreme temperatures, aspect and soil depth. She additionally tracked the influence of non-native pine pitch canker on the forest over time, and discovered that many did not die from infection. Mature trees tolerated infection, while some saplings died.

“Conifers can handle a few years of extreme stress,” she said. “They have evolved to grow in more stressful environments deciduous trees can’t tolerate.”

Over time the forest has continually changed. Historically, Monterey Pine occupied much of coastal California. It expands and contracts in response to climate conditions. Following the last El Nino, for example, many seedlings got started, but few persisted. Seedlings crowd each other out, competing for resources. Only those in the right place and with the greatest access to resources survive.

Monterey Pine has a limited range on the California coast, although it’s the most widely planted conifer globally.

“The number one threat to the Monterey Pine forest is human development and urbanization,” she said. “This species has nowhere to go.”

Every Cambrian lives in the forest. We share our landscape with the trees and wildlife. Donate now to the Forest Committee to defray publication costs of Cambria’s Guide to Invasive Weeds. Send a check for $8 (or more) to Cambria Forest Committee, PO Box 23, Cambria, CA 93428.

Weed Handbook Cover

Weeds are taking over landscape and crowding out native plants. Weeds hurt the forest by changing the habitat for wildlife. they increase fire danger. Pull weeds on your own property and help your neighbors. Every weed you pull reduces the number of seeds that will sprout on your property next year. Connie Gannon, executive director of Greenspace–The Cambria Land Trust and a member of the Forest Committee’s board, wrote about it in The Cambrian.

Learn more about Cambria’s Invasive Weeds by joining iNaturalist  on your tablet or smart phone. Find the Rogue’s Gallery of Weeds and add your personal Worst Weed of Cambria. contact us at forest@cambriaforstcommittee.org with questions.

Download a copy of the Forest Committee’s brochure, At Home in the Forest, from the Frequently Asked Questions page.

A brochure on Sudden Oak Death is now available on the Frequently Asked Questions page.

Read the Community Wildfire Protection Plan posted under Forest-Related documents.

Volunteer to help the Cambria Forest Committee preserve Cambria’s Monterey Pine Forest.

Would you like to pull weeds, get rid of those nasty invasives that are creeping into our forest? Do you have computer skills? Would you like to use your artistic talent to create informational materials that convey the forest’s beauty? What is your talent? The Forest Committee welcomes you. Contact us at forest@cambriaforestcommittee.org and we will put you to work.

In 1985, The Land Conservancy was selected as the implementing nonprofit agency as required for government agencies to operate the Transfer Development Credit Ordinance. Following the completion of the Cambria-Lodge-Hill Restoration Plan, the TDC program received seed money from the state Coastal Conservancy to begin retiring lots. Lots retired from development are permanently restricted to open space and their development rights can be transferred to areas in Cambria where development is better suited and which will have a reduced impact on the health of the native Monterey pine forest. The County directs landowners who wish to exceed present county development standards to The Land Conservancy to purchase TDCs. That money is then used to purchase additional undeveloped lots and retire them from development, and the cycle continues.

In March 2016, after a four year hiatus, the Cambria CSD accepted 52 lots from the Land Conservancy. That allows the program to continue. Read the news report here.

The CSD established a Buildout Reduction Committee to move the program forward. Follow the committee’s progress at the tab above.

Grant to remove dead trees

Cambria has been awarded a $498,736 grant to reduce the fire fuel hazard of dead trees. Read the Cambrian’s coverage here.  Greenspace executive director Connie Gannon writes about how this can involve the Forest Committee here.

The Organizational and Funding Options for Implementation for the Cambria Monterey Pine Forest Management Plan is now posted on the Forest-Related Documents page. The Forest Management Plan is also posted there.

This site contains information about the Cambria Forest Committee including

The Committee meets on the 2nd Wednesday of the month at 6:30 pm at Rabobank on Main Street in Cambria. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Contact the Committee by e-mail:  forest @ cambriaforestcommittee.org

Contact us by mail at:  Cambria Forest Committee    PO Box 23   Cambria, CA 93428

Covell Ranch Fuel Break Information

View information about the Covell Ranch Fire Fuel Break plans on the Special Projects page.

Next Meeting: January 10, 2018 Rabobank, Cambria.  6:30pm  Open to everyone.

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