Vegetation ecologist Dr. Nicole Molinari will explore the impacts of wildfire in Southern California’s national forests in a lecture on Wednesday, May 15 at 7 p.m. at the Los Olivos Community Organization Hall, located at 2374 Alamo Pintado Avenue. This event is free and open to the public.

For millennia, fire has played an integral role in shaping plant communities across California. Today, however, fire frequency, size and severity seem to be steadily increasing across the state. What are the causes and consequences of these changes?

To illustrate the complexities associated with this question, Molinari will compare and contrast the historical and current fire regimes in two dominant vegetation types in California: conifer forests and chaparral shrub lands.

The drivers of changing fire regime (e.g. fire suppression, population growth, and drought) within these two vegetation types will also be compared and used as a platform to explore potential solutions to the problem.

Lastly, impediments to post-fire vegetation recovery under these new conditions will be discussed.

Nicole Molinari is a vegetation ecologist working for the U.S. Forest Service. She received her MS in Biology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and her PhD in Ecology and Evolution from UC Santa Barbara. Nicole has experience working in grasslands, shrub lands, and forests. She has a broad interest in the consequences of human induced global changes, including the effects of biological invasion, nutrient enrichment, climate change, and altered disturbance regimes on vegetation patterns.

Nicole is stationed at the Los Padres National Forest Headquarters, and lives in Goleta with her husband and two boys.

This lecture is co-hosted by the Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society and the Los Olivos Library. To learn more about upcoming programs with the Santa Ynez Valley Natural History Society, visit syvnature.org

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Lisa André covers Valley Life for Santa Ynez Valley News.