• The Point Reyes Beach as viewed from the Point Reyes Headlands

    Point Reyes

    National Seashore California

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    Due to safety concerns during the installation of new LED lights, sections of the Bear Valley Visitor Center's exhibit area may be closed through the end of July. More »

Fire Ecology

Post-fire Bishop pine forest on Inverness Ridge

Bishop pine regeneration at Point Reyes following the 1995 Vision Fire

Fire is one of the most important processes in shaping the ecosystems of the western United States. Fire recycles nutrients and increases diversity across the landscape. A wide variety of plants depend on fire to regenerate. Many animals, in turn, benefit from increased plant growth following fire.

Fire ecology is the study of fire as an ecosystem process. Fire affects and is affected by many aspects of the ecosystem including soil, water, air, vegetation and wildlife.

Fires can be studied as individual events or as repeated processes across the landscape. Fire regimes describe patterns of fire across a landscape. Important aspects of fire regimes include how frequently fires occur, how intense fires are, how large fires are and the season during which fires generally occur. It is important to recognize that fire regimes are variable across space and time. Pyrodiversity, which is the term for this variability in fire regimes, promotes biodiversity. Within Point Reyes National Seashore there are many different vegetation types, each adapted to a different fire regime.

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Did You Know?

Dorsal view of a gray whale breaching. Photo by Merrill Gosho/NOAA.

The Endangered Species Act turned 40 on December 28, 2013. 99 percent of the plants and animals protected by the ESA have been saved from extinction, including the bald eagle, brown pelican, gray whale, and peregrine falcon, all of which can be seen at Point Reyes. More...