Ecological content in Fire and Flora

Core Messages

1) In every ecosystem, including California shrublands, there is a “proper” amount of fire

There are eleven different types of Plant Cards in this game. Each type of card represents a real plant species that is native or naturalized to California. Some of these species require fire to reproduce, some are indifferent to fire, and some are harmed by fire. If there is too little fire, then the plants that require fire for reproduction will drop out of the ecosystem. If there is too much fire, then the plants that are harmed by fire will drop out of the ecosystem. Only when there is a “proper” amount of fire, can all three types of species coexist. Only then, will you have a healthy, diverse, high-scoring ecosystem.

2) There is currently too much fire in California shrublands

While fires can have both positive and negative effects, the relatively high frequency of fire events within the game will cause more harm than good. Players will need to actively combat the effects of fires in order to prevent in-game ecosystems from becoming weedy wastelands. This illustrates the fact that there is currently too much fire in most California shrublands.

3) Humans are the cause of most of the fires in California shrublands

The game contains an Event Deck, which includes such things as El Niño, La Niña, Recession, Economic Boom, and Fire. Each Fire Event card will have a unique name, one that describes the cause of the fire (e.g. downed power line, crashed airplane, escaped campfire, lightening strike, etc.). The frequency of causes within the game will roughly reflect the real-world frequency of causes. Specifically, as humans cause the majority of ignitions in California shrublands, the majority of Fire Events will have a human-type cause.

Therefore: Through fire, humans are causing damage to California shrublands. However, at the same time, through care and effort, humans can prevent further damage and restore what was destroyed.

Secondary Messages

Plants have personality and character

  • Different species have not just different shapes, but also different lifestyles.
  • Each of the eight native plant species within the game is distinct in shape, size, and personality.
  • The three invasive plant species have similar personalities, illustrating the fact that invasive plants tend to be fast-growing disturbance lovers.
  • The set of species within the game include representatives of the three most common post-fire response types: fire follower, obligate seeder, and facultative seeder (for reference, try here or here).

The concept of native and nonnative plants

  • Many of the most common California plants are not native to California (e.g. mustards, thistles, and annual grasses).
  • Compared to nonnative plants, native plants are more diverse in shape, size, and personality.
  • Conversely, most invasive plants have the same personality, tending to be fast-growing disturbance lovers.
  • Native plants are valuable for their diversity.

Familiarity with ecologically important events

  • El Niño years tend to be wet. For this reason, flooding is more common during El Niño years.
  • La Niña years tend to be dry, and fires tend to be more severe during La Niña years.
  • The national economy, and legislative choices, affect the ability of humans to protect and restore landscapes.

Familiarity with accessible natural areas across California

  • The final game will include 30-50 land cards, each of which is based on a real-world California location that is relatively accessible.
  • Locations will be distributed across southern and central California in a balanced manner, so that there will be at least one location within easy day-tripping distance of most California residents.
  • Each location that is included in the game will be relatively accessible, such that one could drive to the area, and hike it, all within a single day.


  • Plants, animals, landscapes, weather, and humans, all interact with each other.
  • Humans are an important part of the natural world.
  • The state of the landscape today is a holistic consequence of climate, weather, topography, and human choices.

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