Natural Restoration of Vegetation on Deer Creek

Background: Since the New Year's Day Flood of 1997, many landslides and washed-out roads provided opportunities for restoration work.  Deer Creek, on the Applegate Ranger District, experienced one of the largest slides which began in a high elevation wet meadow but was aggravated by an additional slide out of an adjacent clear-cut/roaded area.  When I first observed the slide where it crossed Road 1020, five months after the landslide, native plants were already starting to emerge from the sediment.  This seemed to be a perfect opportunity to observe natural restoration but the restoration team was already developing a plan to address concerns of slide and soil stabilization, especially due to the concern of increased sediment in the near future to Sturgis Creek.

Findings: Over a year after the flood, July 6, 1998, I was in the area surveying another project so I walked through a half mile of the area listing plant species that were coming up within the washed out/sediment laden areas.  Native plants were coming up along the edges of the forest into the disturbance zone, scattered in the middle of the disturbance zone, and were growing in the moist edges along the stream.  This fairly quick survey located 69 plant species (64 are native species) restoring themselves naturally within the area affected by the slide and flood.  In addition, some restoration activities (plantings of douglas-fir seedlings and willow stems) had been done just two weeks earlier. It was late in the season when these plantings were able to be done so the plants were placed mainly adjacent to the stream and often in the moist areas that were already being re-colonized by the native species.  All species planted were native species but some of them were placed in locations where they would not have occurred naturally (ie. douglas-fir in wet areas).

Applications: Often when we act quickly in restoring situations that we consider disasters, we may not understand the consequences of our actions. On the Siskiyou National Forest, they found that grass seeding (non-native species) after the Silver Fire prevented or slowed the re-establishment of native plant species.  After the Medenhall Fire, they allowed the area to restore itself naturally and found they had much better results with natives being re-established.  Although wildfire impacts can be very different from flood events, we can learn by watching natural restoration and comparing it with areas we have restored.  As more restoration occurs now and in the future, efforts should be made to do restoration activities in bare areas and not where the natives are coming back on their own.  Efforts should be made to use material from the watershed and mimic the species composition of the site.

Follow up: More restoration activities occurred after my visit, logs that had piled together from the slide were removed by horse logging, erosion control blankets were spread and native grass seed was sown.  Next summer, observations should be made to see where these activities were done in relation to the naturally restoring natives and see if there is any further impact to the natives and if the number of natural species is changing.  In the future, when an opportunity occurs to observe natural restoration after a flood, a monitoring project should be considered to observe natural versus non-natural restoration.  We may find that we can do much less restoration work while letting the rest of the area heal on it's own.

Submitted by: Barbara Mumblo, Applegate RD, 541-899-1812, Date 2-18-99

Native species found within the Deer Creek slide on July 6, 1998

Scientific name Common name
Acer macrophyllum Big leaf maple
Achillea millefolium Yarrow
Achlys triphylla ssp. triphylla Vanilla leaf
Agastache urticifolia Horsemint
Alnus rubra Red alder
Anaphalis margaritacea Pearly everlasting
Arabis sp. Rock cress
Arbutus menziesii Pacific madrone
Arctostaphylos patula Green leaf manzanita
Athyrium filix-femina var. cyclosorum Lady fern
Barbarea orthoceras American winter cress
Berberis nervosa Dwarf oregon grape
Calocedrus decurrens Incense cedar
Carex sp. 1 sedge 1
Carex sp. 2 sedge 2
Ceanothus velutinus Snow brush, tobacco brush
Chrysolepis chrysophylla Chinquapin
Claytonia sibirica Siberian candyflower
Clintonia uniflora Queen cup
Collomia heterophylla Vari-leaf collomia
Cornus nuttallii Mountain dogwood
Deschampsia elongata Elongated hairgrass
Dicentra formosa Bleeding heart
Elymus glaucus Blue wildrye
Epilobium sp. Fireweed
Gilia capitata? Blue-headed gilia
Glyceria sp. Mannagrass
Hackelia micrantha Jessica's stickseed
Holodiscus discolor Ocean spray
Hypericum sp. St. John's wort
Iris sp. Iris
Juncus sp. Rush sp.
Lathyrus polyphyllus Oregon pea
Linnaea borealis var. longiflora Twin flower
Lonicera ciliosa Orange honeysuckle
Lotus sp. Lotus
Madia madioides Woodland tarweed
Mimulus guttatus Seep-spring monkeyflower
Mimulus moschatus Musk monkeyflower
Nothochelone nemorosa Woodland penstemon
Paxistima myrsinites Oregon Boxwood
Petasites frigidus var. palmatus Coltsfoot
Scientific name Common name
Phacelia ?heterophylla ssp. virgata Vari-leaf phacelia
Phlox adsurgens Woodland phlox
Polystichum munitum Sword fern
Psuedotsuga menziesii Douglas-fir
Pteridium aquilinum var. pubescens Bracken fern
Quercus sadleriana Sadler's oak
Ribes lacustre Swamp currant
Ribes lobbii Gummy gooseberry
Ribes sanquineum Red flowering currant
Rosa sp. Rose species
Rosa gymnocarpa Little wood rose
Rubus parviflorus Thimbleberry
Rubus ursinus California blackberry
Rudbeckia californica California cone-flower
Salix sp. Willow species
Sambucus mexicana Blue elderberry
Satureja douglasii Yerba buena
Taxus brevifolia Pacific yew
Tiarella unifoliata Single sugar scoop
Tolmiea menziesii Pig-a-back plant
Vancouveria hexandra Inside-out flower
Vicia americana var. americana American vetch

Non-native species coming up naturally

Cirsium vulgaris Bull thistle
Dactylis glomerata Orchard grass
Prunella vulgaris Self-heal
Rumex acetosella Sheep sorrel
Verbascum thapsus Woolly mullein