Birth of this zone is characterized by
Birth by Flames Being our native landscape, the chaparral defines California as a place. It is an extremely rare ecosystem that is only found in few parts of the world. They occur in coastal areas of Mediterranean zones, the west coast and Cape Town area of South Africa, the west coast of Australia, and most importantly, California where it covers more than 10 million acres of land. This equates to 8. 5% of the total land cover of the state! Together, the chaparrals around the world harbor 20% of plant life in the world (WWF – California Chaparral & Woodlands).
It supports enormous amounts of native wildlife and vegetation but recently this unique ecosystem is under attack. Urbanization and grazing threatens this precious landscape. Before long, we could lose the very thing that uniquely defines our golden state. By protecting the chaparral, we are in a sense protecting what really separates us as Californians. From the facts I have gathered in books and lectures, I will use logos to convince why these sensitive shrub-lands are worth protecting.
As said in my umbrella topic, this essay will focus on the magnificence of this unique ecosystem.The chaparral, the very treasure of California that separates us from the rest of North America, is in danger from our actions. The chaparral is a widespread ecosystem in California.
“Seen from the air or from the ground, the texture of the landscape of the California foothill is varied. Each turn seems to bring something different: first woodland comes into view, then the next hillside is covered with dense shrubs; cresting a hill are open savanna and grassland (Barbour p. 90). ” The chaparral grows between the elevations of 300 to 3,000 feet with low annual rainfall. It is interspersed with the surrounding oak woodlands and grasslands.The vegetation of this zone is characterized by a single dense “impenetrable” layer of “twiggy” shrubs four to eight feet tall (Kueppers).
The ground is stony and littered with dried plant remains from past generations. Vegetation in these regions is highly drought tolerant, perfectly adapted to these dry conditions. One adaptation that plants evolved to reduce heat gain is to have their leaves vertically oriented with silver to whitish coloring to reflect sunlight. Having small leaves also enable them to reduce water loss in this desert-like environment. The chaparral is fueled by fires.The all-consuming flames that the region produces burns with much higher intensity than that of ecosystems such as grasslands.
The firestorms are fueled by the accumulation of dead matter and remains of “twiggy” plants that are littered beneath the growing shrubs. The intensity of fire is measured in BTUs. “While grassland fires are relatively cool, releasing 150 BTUs per second per foot of fire front, and produce soil surface temperatures of 300°F, chaparral fires release 12,000 BTUs per second per foot in winds of only six miles per hour, and produce soil surface temperatures of 1,000°F-enough to melt aluminum (Barbour p. 1). ” With these high temperatures and rugged landscape, chaparral fires are hard to control. After the fire, the landscape seems barren and lifeless.
However, fires are actually beneficial, if not necessary, for the ecosystem to continue on. The flames clear away the dead organic debris and shrubs for the new generation to begin. The heat created by the fire triggers shells of seeds that once laid dormant underground to crack. When the winter rain comes, the seeds germinate, buds sprout and roots protected in the soil resume growth and a whole new generation of flora takes over.
This cycle usually repeats every thirty to forty years. It is extremely rare for a chaparral to be older than fifty years. The chaparral may depend on fire to sustain life, but too much of anything is bad. Decadal fires reduce species diversity and only plants that reproduce at a young age can grow.
Annual and biennial fires convert chaparral into grasslands. Human interactions with this delicate ecosystem have serious side effects. Naturally, the chaparral serves as a watershed and when it is converted into grasslands and farmlands forcefully by humans, it changes the hydrology of the area.Soil erosion is also a prime concern once the vegetation has been cleared away. It affects more than two million acres of cropland an seven million acres of grazing land.
Since the roots of the shrubs hold the soil in place, without them it will simply blow away. As the soil erodes, the land cannot be reused and may take decades to regenerate to its original pristine. Although chaparral is mainly converted for farming and grazing, urbanization also plays a role into the destruction of these sensitive environments. With growing state population, people are building homes and oving into the chaparral. This is a dangerous decision because the chaparral is extremely prone to fire. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, the landscape here is rugged, usually up on barely accessible hillsides.
Living here certainly means potential, if not certain, catastrophe and development in the chaparral is “economically unwise (Barbour p. 90)”. Our decisions and actions endanger the wellbeing of the chaparral. This golden landscape should be treasured, not destroyed.
California is one of the few places of the world with the right climate and geology for this rare ecosystem to flourish.It makes our state distinct from the rest and reflects upon its people as unique individuals. The expansion of farming and grazing is shrinking down the chaparral at alarming rates.
Rapid increase in urbanization also accelerates its demise. With growing populations, the state of the chaparral is in real peril. This essay relates back to my umbrella topic by exploring the actions of humans that are destroying the planet. The sources I have used are from books and lectures that taught me so much of this beautiful ecosystem.
With this essay, I hoped to convince you, the reader, to make be the change.We are not alone in this world and we must be responsible and stewards of the planet. Work Cited Barbour, Michael. California’s Changing Landscapes Diversity and Conservation of California Vegetation. Sacramento, CA: California Native Plant Soc. , 1994.
Print. Kueppers, Lara. “Chaparral and Fire. ” Ecosystems of California. University of California, Merced, Merced. Lecture.
“WWF – California Chaparral & Woodlands. ” WWF – WWF. Web. 17 Mar. 2011. ;http://wwf.
panda. org/about_our_earth/ecoregions/california_chaparral_woodlands. cfm;