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Author Topic: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California  (Read 2420 times)

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #60 on: March 20, 2022, 12:49:20 PM »


Before leaving the top of the ridge, I went to check on a small population of Viola sheltonii growing in a small grove of Jeffreyii Pine, Pinus jeffreyi. The plants had emerged from the ground; however it will be a month or so before they bloom. Viola sheltonii is an early blooming Viola species and is the first Viola species to bloom at this site.



The ridgeline was the current low elevation limit of the Sierra Nevada snow pack. The current snow liquid equivalent of the Sierra snow pack is ~ 70% of the 15 year average.

Now that I finished my survey of this site, I traveled to a low elevation site that was impacted by the Caldor Fire. I have excellent long-term field notes from this site dating back to the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Unfortunately, when I arrived near the site, I found that the site was still closed. The departing log trucks filled with burn-scared timber was an ominous sign. I was informed that the site might be open 1 April, so I will try again to visit the site as soon as possible after 1 April.



My new option was to survey a nearby site that was impacted by the 2014 King Fire. This site is also at a relatively low elevation; however I had time to only survey the south-facing slopes and the ridge crest at this site. I only have 10 years of detailed field notes from this site. It would be better to have longer-term field notes; however it is still interesting documenting the response of plant species and plant communities in the aftermath of the King Fire.



Gilia capitata is a commonly seen species on the lower portions (~2,200 feet, 670 meters) of the ridge on exposed south-facing slopes. There has been so little precipitation since early-January through mid-March that the plants were extremely drought stressed and appeared red in color.



Diplacus grandiflorus is another species that is frequently observed on dry, exposed south-facing slopes. This perennial, evergreen species is often seen growing out of rock crevices where there is very little soil.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #61 on: March 20, 2022, 12:52:15 PM »


Pellaea mucrontata var. mucronata is an evergreen rock fern that is extremely tolerant of dry soil conditions, exposed sunny south-facing rock faces, and is growing where there is often very little soil. There are clearly limits to what this species can endure: This specimen was extremely stressed from the relentlessly dry conditions in our region.



Some plants do not survive. This is not unusual even when drought conditions are not as extreme as they currently are. What is alarming is the large numbers of plants in a variety of habitats that are extremely drought-stressed. Extreme drought stress and apparent shifts in plants and plant communities are variables that I am monitoring closely.



Foothill Poppy, Eschscholzia caespitosa, was one of the few plant species in bloom when I surveyed this site.



The perennial Bush Lupine, Lupinus albifrons var. albifrons, is extremely drought tolerant and is frequently seen growing from rocky ledges in full sun.



The first flowers were beginning to open on Lupinus albifron var. albifrons. Where there was slightly better growing conditions, the plants were large and well budded for the coming blooming season.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #62 on: March 20, 2022, 12:55:40 PM »


The Genus Keckielia is closely related to the Genus Penstemon. Keckielia breviflora var. breviflora is a shrubby species easily obtaining 1 meter or more in size. The creamy white flowers of this species have distinct pink markings and striping.



Philadelphus lewisii is one of many shrubby chaparral species found in the lower Transition Zone ecosystems in the river canyons of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in our region. The species is deciduous and has lightly fragrant white flowers that open in the spring.



Often found in sunny, exposed, dry sites is Pellaea andromedifolia. This species is evergreen and larger growing than Pellaea mucronata.



In semi-shaded sites where the soil is seasonally moist Nemophila heterophylla is commonly found. This is the most frequently seen species in canyon habitats in the Transition Life Zone.



Scrophularia californica is found in perennially moist habitats. Growing above this specimen was a large vine of Vitus californica. The two species enjoy moist soil conditions and are often seen growing in the same location.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #63 on: March 20, 2022, 12:58:45 PM »


The showy flowers of the annual species Lupinus nanus were showing in scattered locations on the steep slopes of the south-facing canyon.



After making a survey of the lower portion of the canyon I moved to the top of the ridge, elevation 3,318 feet (1,011 meters). Here at the top of the ridge the King Fire burned very intensely. Shortly after the fire, I observed where trees had burned completely to the ground. In some cases, the roots of the trees had completely burned, leaving a hole in the ground that appeared like the cavity left by an extracted tooth. In extreme cases, the fire was so intense that nothing stump-sprouted and no seeds germinated in the first few seasons after the fire. Fortunately, there were few sites where the fire’s impact was so extreme.

Pictured is a young 7 to 8-year old Knobcone Pine, Pinus attenutata. This pine species is dependent on fire for reproduction. The pinecones of this species will not open until they are heated and/or partly burned by a fire. Cones are formed on this species at an extremely young age. The cones will also cling to the tree for many years. It is not unusual to see cones being slowly engulfed by the successive growth of a tree each season.



Here is another view of the cones of Pinus attenuata.



Pinecones at various stages of development can be seen on Pinus attenuata once this species attains a reproductive age.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #64 on: March 21, 2022, 01:20:50 AM »


White Leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida, is an obligate seeder. This Manzanita species does not form burls and will not stump sprout after a fire. The seeds of this species frequently germinate abundantly after a fire. Pictured above is a dense stand of Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida that germinated after the King Fire.



I found this Tanbark Oak near the edge of the King Fire burn scar area. It had stump sprouted from its base after being burned to the ground. I saw no indication that the original plant had a large central tree, so it was most likely Notholithocarpus densiflora var. echinoides, the shrubby form of Tanbark Oak. Variety echinoides is the most frequent form of this species that I find in our part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.



Near the edge of the burn scar many trees still had blackened bark. In the foreground of this photograph are the dormant twigs and small branches of Bitter Cherry, Prunus emarginata.



Pictured is a view of the canyon of the South Fork of the American River. This view is toward the east with the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance.



The American River canyon was severely impacted by the King Fire, and the damage to the forest in the canyon is still evident.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #65 on: March 21, 2022, 01:23:07 AM »


Near the edge of the King Fire burn scar, the fire only burned the growth under the forest canopy. Here the revitalizing effects of the fire were apparent: a rich diversity of perennial plant species flourished. Sanicula graveolens was one of the early-blooming species in active growth.



Dense mats of Bear Clover, Chamaebatia foliolosa, covered much of the forest floor. This species is well adapted to fire. The flash point of the green foliage is extremely high, nearly impossible to ignite. The dormant stem, lower center photograph, is Rosa bridgesii, a low-growing species that suckers freely from the roots.



This is another view of the King Fire burn scar, facing the distant ridges to the north. Here scattered patches of forest were left intact, surrounded by large areas where the forest completely burned.



One of the highlights of this outing was finding the first open flowers of Mountain Violet, Viola purpurea ssp. purpurea. Here the species is seen mixed with the foliage of Sanicula graveolens.

Despite not being able to visit any of the Caldor Fire burn area, this outing was very productive and a great success.

Until the next time…
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #66 on: April 03, 2022, 08:19:35 PM »


In our local area, spring has arrived to the Upper Sonoran Life Zone of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. How long spring conditions will last is questionable. Extremely dry conditions have prevailed since mid-January 2022. For the month of March, temperatures at our Placerville property--located in the Upper Sonoran Life Zone--were 3.97 F (2.206 C) above the 1991-2020, 30-year average. This is extremely anomalous! At other sites in our region where I gather environmental data, I recorded similar anomalously high temperature readings. Currently, another round of record-breaking high temperatures are forecasted with temperatures in excess of 32 C expected for many sites in our area. Compounding the already extremely dry conditions is our rapidly dwindling snow pack in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Currently, there is no snow at and below 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). At the higher elevations, the snow pack is ~ 50% of average. How managed, unmanaged, and altered ecosystems (e.g. burn scar areas) and the plants that grow in them will respond to these extremes is a question that I will pursue during the coming season. Over the next week to ten days I will report on my last plant and ecosystem survey.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #67 on: April 08, 2022, 05:36:03 PM »


Many ecological life zones encompass portions of the South Fork of the American River Canyon. There can be vast differences in the flora depending on the exposure of the canyon slopes to solar radiation, the underlying geological rock formations from which soils are derived, and other environmental variables. I spend a large portion of this outing surveying areas of the canyon encompassed within the Upper Sonoran Life Zone.

Before I continue with my account of this outing, I want to further clarify the current anomalously dry weather and warm temperatures we are experiencing in our region. 51.38% of our average annual precipitation falls during the months of January, February, and March. We received only 10.9% of the average January through March precipitation in 2022. This is an extremely anomalous event. In addition, our current snow pack in our region is only ~ 45% of average. For the first 5 days on April temperatures in our region are running ~ 5 F (2.78 C) above average. Even warmer, record to near record, high temperatures are forecasted over the next 3 days. These and other climatic trends are extremely worrisome and are having a dramatic impact on our natural ecosystems.



I started my survey at an elevation of 1,397 feet (426 meters) on the south facing canyon slope. As I worked my way down into the canyon toward the South Fork of the American River I spotted a few mature trees of Arbutus menziesii in full bloom.



Arbutus menziesii is an evergreen species. The creamy white, urn-shaped flowers are typical of plants in the Ericaceae Family.



Poison Oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum, is a very common species in the lower elevations of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the adjoining foothill region. Some individuals, such as myself, are extremely sensitive to exposure to this species. Contact with the leaves and even the dormant branches can cause a severe skin rash and itching, burning oozing skin.



The emerging foliage of Toxicidendron diversilobum is often very striking and attractive. For those sensitive it still needs to be avoided completely.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #68 on: April 08, 2022, 05:39:22 PM »


The flora of this life zone can be very diverse. Pictured is the vigorous new growth of Sambucus nigra ssp. caerulea.



The small lavender-blue and white flowers of Lupinus bicolor were frequently seen as I worked my way down the steep canyon slope. Lupinus bicolor is an annual species found mostly in the Upper and Lower Sonoran Life Zones.



In sunny glades, many blooming stems of Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus were observed with flowers in a range of lavender-blue shades.



As I worked my way down into the canyon it was apparent that many of the coniferous tree species were highly stressed. The Douglas Fir, Psuedostuga menziesii var. menziesii, pictured is defoliating and will likely die later this spring or during the early summer.



This photograph shows the numbers of dead and dying conifers in this area. 20 years of drought and rising temperatures are causing dramatic changes to our natural ecosystems. What is alarming is that drought conditions appear to be intensifying, the rate of temperature increase may be accelerating, and ecosystems appear to be shifting rapidly. Generally unmanaged ecosystems display a great deal of resiliency, however now even unmanaged ecosystems are often stressed and undergoing unprecedented change.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #69 on: April 17, 2022, 05:22:46 PM »
There has been a major shift in our local weather, and it is planting season.

An account of my 30 March outing to the canyon of the South Fork of the American River has been delayed.

Now I will continue as time and circumstances permit.



As I continued my way down into the canyon, small meadows in the openings of the forest canopy were filled with blooming carpets of the yellow Asteraceae, Pseudobahia heeramannii mixed with various bulbous species such as Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus.



Pseudobahia heermannii is a low growing annual species.



It was a short distance down to the South Fork of the American River. The reflection of the trees in the placid water was very serene.



On the opposite bank of the river grew a mixture of coniferous and deciduous tree species. White Alder, Alnus rhombifolia, grew near the riverbank. Up on slightly higher ground grew Bigleaf Maple, Acer macrophyllum.



I spent time surveying the flora along the riverbank before starting back up the trail. On rocky ledges near the trail the first flowers of Calochortus albus were open. This species is generally found growing under the high canopy of evergreen and deciduous oak, Quercus, species.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2022, 05:39:40 PM by Robert »
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

Robert

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Re: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate – Northern California
« Reply #70 on: April 25, 2022, 06:00:17 PM »


Winter and the early spring have been extremely dry. On exposed south facing slopes of the canyon the annual grasses were beginning to dry and turn brown.



I found one location on the canyon side where a small colony of Delphinium patens ssp. patens was growing. This perennial species is quite attractive when in bloom. As with many of our California native Delphinium this species is summer dormant, well adapted to its extremely summer dry habitat.



Whitehead Wyethia, Wyethia helenioides, is one of two Wythia species found in the lower portions of the South Fork of the American River canyon. This species has very distinct large woolly gray leaves.



Many deciduous trees were beginning to leaf out. The new growth of Quercus kelloggii is frequently tinted red.



Other trees such as California Buckeye, Aesculus californica, were well advanced in their new growth.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him stepto the music which he hears, however measured or far away.
- Henry David Thoreau

 


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