Field Journal: 10 - 23 February 2019 - Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Edition

Non-forest stuff kept me from visiting Roy's Redwoods as often as usual. I spent my time in the woods this couple of weeks observing how the rain and the wind have altered the landscape since the beginning of the rainy season.

Creek near the Nicasio Valley Road Trailhead

At the trailhead on Nicasio Valley Road, there's a new "bridge" across the creek: a fallen Peppernut trunk and a Coast Redwood branch. Toppled trunks and fallen branches are the most obvious signs of storm damage so far this season. Peppernut (California Bay Laurel,) tall and slender, is a frequent faller. This seems to be more of a feature than a bug, though: new branches can sprout from a fallen Peppernut trunk, and they will keep right on growing this way.

Recently-fallen Pepperwood/California Bay Laurel trees along Meadow Trail

Further east along Meadow Trail, storm damage is more severe. The jumbled mess pictured above is the aftermath of a domino effect started by a large Peppernut branch.

Same area as above, several months ago

Here is what the same area looked like a few months ago, before winter. This place was a filming location for The Ewok Adventure, and the Peppernut on the far-right can be seen in the film (uncredited, alas.)

Alluvial flat north of Meadow Trail

Other changes in the landscape are more modest - like erosion. The shallow stream bed pictured above is one I've become familiar with over the past three years, and it's changed very little during that time. The most dramatic developments so far have occurred where an exposed tree root crosses the stream, resulting in silt accumulation on the upstream side and erosion on the downstream side.

Coast Redwood roots exposed by erosion

Erosion isn't always subtle. In the area shown above, spillover from a flooded creek has carried away the topsoil, exposing redwood roots. This is not an area where such spillover normally occurs. The seasonal creek bed nearby is choked at a critical point where it flows under and around a fallen redwood. There is more debris in the creek bed this year than in previous years, as a result of a couple of dams built by visitors last summer. This erosion is concerning because Coast Redwood roots are shallow - most grow within the top 18 inches (47 cm) of soil. These exposed roots will die back, which will impact the health of the trees.

Unidentified Cup Fungus (Phylum Ascomycota)

I did get take "slow hike" this week, looking for slime molds and tiny fungi with another local macro photographer. The highlight for me was finding this slate-blue cup fungus - one I've never seen before. I always enjoy meeting new friends.

Previously: 03 - 09 February 2019 - Cold Snap Edition

Next: 26 February 2019 - Flooded Forest Special Edition

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