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Author Topic: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021  (Read 8608 times)

Robert

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Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« on: January 09, 2021, 07:52:18 PM »


Here it is the start of 2021 and the beginning of year 3 of my Crystal Range Project.

This is a view of the canyon of the South Fork of the American River taken from Peavine Ridge on 21 December 2020. There is very little snow! And total precipitation amounts in our region are running about 30% to 35% of average to date. I am sure I will have much more to discuss on this topic in future postings, but for now the extremely dry condition continue and are forecasted to continue for at least the next 7 days.



This is a view looking up into the higher regions of the canyon of the South Fork of the American River. 40 years ago, during most seasons, this site would have been carpeted with snow on 21 December. Slowly the more subtle impacts of climate change on plants/plant communities are being uncovered.



The crest of the Crystal Range can be seen in the distance. Despite the dry conditions, the snow pack in the higher elevations of the range is maintaining its depth and water content. Now that the winter solstice is past, if clear skies prevail, increasing levels of short wave solar radiation will erode the existing snow pack. This is already occurring at the lower elevations where there is some snow.

Anyway, I hope to get back to the Sierra Nevada soon.
Robert Barnard
Sacramento & Placerville, Northern California, U.S.A.
All text and photos © Robert Barnard

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Robert

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2021, 08:04:41 PM »


I was back in the Sierra Nevada Mountains the other day. It was a beautiful warm day with a high temperature of about 70 F (21.1 C). This is certainly nothing that I would expect in mid-January at the elevation of 5,100 feet (1,554 meters). Yesterday’s high temperature at the farm was 70 F (21.1 C). This was a record high temperature for 15 January.

The extremely dry weather pattern continues. It has been 10 days since there has been measurable precipitation. Our current precipitation total currently stands at 35.1% of average to date. There is no indication there will be meaningful precipitation during the next 7 days. The situation in the Sierra Nevada Mountain is about the same. There is basically no snow below 5,000 feet (1,554 meters) and much below average snow totals above this altitude.

Despite the less than ideal temperature and precipitation pattern, the weather pattern could change later this winter and into the spring. There are indications that the entrenched weather pattern may be shifting. We will see what happens. Last season there was no precipitation during the month of February. Two or three storms during the following months increased precipitation amounts appreciatively.



Eriogonum prattenianum is a fairly common species at the site that I visited.



With Eriogonum prattenianum var. prattenianum, there is considerable genetic variability in leaf retention during the winter among the population observed at this site. Some specimens appear dead, yet they will leaf-out vigorously in the spring. Other specimens will retain a few distally located leaves.



This specimen of Penstemon laetus var. laeatus is sharing space with Elymus multisetus.



Drought stress was considerable this past season. Mortality rates were high among some species, in some cases reaching 51.2% of the observed population. The population of Penstemon leatus var. laetus at this site faired much better, however there were still losses as one can see from this photograph.
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: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2021, 08:07:19 PM »


Aspidotis densa is a very common fern found at this site. Cold temperatures have browned the tips of the foliage (it actually has not been very cold this winter).



Many perennial and annual grasses are now in active growth. The perennial species, Poa secunda ssp. secunda is generally the first to commence active growth when the autumn rains begin.



Elymus multisetus is a perennial bunch grass frequently encountered at this site.



Stipa lemmonii var. lemmonii is yet another perennial bunch grass found at this site.



Other graminoid species can be found at this site. Luzula comosa var. laxa is one of the more commonly observed species. During cold weather the tips of the leaves are frequently colored red with high concentrations of anthocyanin.
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: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2021, 08:08:46 PM »


With the relatively warm weather and the lack of snow cover, many annual species have germinated and are in active growth. This seedling stand of Phacelia stebbinsii has found shelter at the base of this rock. High concentrations of anthocyanin can be seen in the adaxial leaf veining. Abaxially the leaves are frequently richly colored with high concentrations of anthocyanin observable over the complete leave surface. This is not unusual with many annual native species during periods of stress, such as cold weather, drought, or other environmental stresses.

Well it is time to close.
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.
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Maggi Young

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2021, 08:46:36 PM »
Wow! Still so dry!
Margaret Young in Aberdeen, North East Scotland Zone 7 -ish!

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Hoy

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2021, 05:49:50 PM »
It looks very dry.

We had a very dry and cold start of the year. Almost two weeks with sun, no precipitation and down to -7C/18F (much lower inland).We have not had such a cold period for many years. The last couple of days the temperature has increased and we got snow, also much more than in many years. Now it is slightly above freezing and it will stay like this for a week or so.
Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Robert

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2021, 07:48:55 PM »
Maggi – Trond

Yes, the weather is dry, however the soil is quite moist at the site that I visited last week.

Take a look at the charts posted below:



This chart compares snow depth (in inches) last year (blue line) to this season (red line) through the end of February. There was no precipitation during the month of February last year. Currently the snow depth is less than it was at the end of February last year.



The data for this chart was taken from the same site. The dashed blue line is the average snow liquid equivalents over the last 16 years. The red line charts amounts for last season, the green line totals for the currents season.

Last year there were, more or less, two precipitation events, one in March, and another in April, that “saved the day” precipitation wise. As I wrote, who knows what the remaining portion of this precipitation season will bring, but we do need a goodly amount of precipitation to avoid major hydrologic problem in our region this coming summer and autumn. Last season conditions in the equatorial Pacific were El Niño neutral, this season there is a strong La Niña event taking place. The atmosphere is responding quite differently this season compared to last season. This strongly influences the climatic teleconnections. No matter how things turn out, the events as they unfold will be an exceptional learning experience. There is much more to discuss in this regard into the future, including applications toward our gardens and gardening. Very fun stuff!

BTW – We have been experiencing record to near record high temperatures over the last 3 days. Average temperatures have been running 10 F to 15 F (5.6 C to 8.3 C) above average.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2021, 10:12:03 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

Hoy

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2021, 08:07:37 AM »
Interesting pattern, Robert.

Now I wonder whether your dry weather and our cold weather somehow are connected to the La Niña event.

This picture from mid January 2020 is typical for the last 5 years. This January we have had the coldest period for many, many years.

679207-0
Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Robert

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2021, 08:46:34 PM »


I was out on Peavine Ridge and Telephone Ridge yesterday. I will post the results of this outing in a few days.

Trond,

With time, I will continue the discussion on climatic teleconnections. Our understanding of climatic teleconnections is continuing, however there is still much to do to expand our understanding of these patterns. In addition, how shifting climatic patterns are impacting plant species and plant communities in the Crystal Range/Basin is the continuing focus of my project. I will try to tie in horticultural applications whenever possible.

BTW – I enjoyed your photographs from your garden. The plants dusted with snow can create some very attractive images. We could sure use some snow, or even just some precipitation.
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.
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Robert

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #9 on: January 25, 2021, 08:51:01 PM »


I spent Wednesday morning, 20 January, first on Peavine Ridge, then later in the morning on Telephone Ridge. The weather was warm and dry, not a cloud in the sky. This is not the type of weather we currently need, but it was indeed a pleasant day to be out.



I conducted my usual site survey on Peavine Ridge. As is often the case, I frequently spot something new or unusual during my survey. On this day, I spotted one specimen of Castilleja applegatei ssp. pinetorum with current season growth. At this site and elevation, this species is usually completely dormant during the winter. The new growth was dark red, saturated with anthocyanin. I strongly suspect that this new growth commenced during the autumn. This is unusual, as this site was under a great deal of stress from the extremely dry conditions during this period of time. I noted this specimen’s location and will continue to monitor this plant as the new season progresses.



As soon as I finished on Peavine Ridge, I moved down the mountain to Telephone Ridge. The crest of Telephone Ridge sets at ~ 4,800 feet (1,463 meters), 300 feet (91 meters) below my study site on Peavine Ridge. Although there is little elevation difference between the two sites, there is a definite shift in the vegetation/plant communities that continues to accelerate quickly as one descends into the American River Canyon. A few rarely seen plant species find their home in this area.

In the distance the snow capped Pyramid Peak can be seen. As of this writing, the first in a series of cold storms have arrived, bringing much needed new snow to the Crystal Range and Peavine Ridge. A broad long-wave trough is now approaching California. This weather pattern will likely bring significant precipitation to our region. If the long range forecast is correct, an “epic” storm system is forecasted to arrive in our region sometime next week. We will see if this storm indeed continues to develop. The prospects certainly look good on the latest 300mb map.



On the crest of Telephone Ridge, a small number of acres of chaparral burned during the previous season. It was striking to observe how quickly this plant community is regenerating itself, especially considering the dry conditions this past season.



Chamaebatia foliolosa, Bear Clover, has quickly regenerated itself from vegetive buds located below the surface of the ground. This species is extremely resistant to fire. New fire-fighting recruits are often trained in fire suppression on sites carpeted with Bear Clover. The foliage has a very high flash point and will ignite only under the most extreme conditions. Fire with enough heat intensity and duration will eventually burn this species to the ground, however it recovers quickly after fire.
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.
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Robert

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2021, 08:54:24 PM »


Many Manzanita species, Arctostaphylos, regenerate from burls after the tops have been burned to the ground by fire. This specimen of Arctostaphylos mewukka ssp. mewukka, Indian Manzanita, grew vigorously after the fire.



This is another view of Arctostaphylos mewukka ssp. mewukka sprouting from the burl.



Arctostaphylos patula, Green Leaf Manzanita, produces burls that generate new growth after a fire.



In this area, Arctostaphylos patula is at the lower end of its altitude range. Other Manzanita species grow more abundantly. White-leaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida, is at its upper elevation limit in this region. I did not observe any at this specific site; however they are often seen in this vicinity. Arctostaphylos viscida does not produce burls; however mature plants often produce fruit abundantly. The seeds of this species can remain dormant in the soil for many years and will germinate prolifically after a fire.



Deer Brush, Ceanothus integerrimus var. macrothyrsus, is yet another example of a California native species that will sprout new growth from dormant below ground vegetive buds after a fire.
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.
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Robert

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #11 on: January 25, 2021, 08:56:57 PM »


The fire occurred last season sometime during the summer, well after the soil became dry. These seedlings of Ceanothus integerrimus var. macrothyrsus most likely germinated and started growth before the fire. They likely escaped the most intense heat of the fire. Vernalization and other variables will also impact the germination of dormant seeds.



Quercus chrysolepis, Canyon Live Oak, is very picturesque. The trunk and large branches often appear jet-black and arch majestically out over the steep slopes of canyons, their preferred habitat.



This species too, will sprout new growth from the base of the trunk after a fire. Even a small seedling, such as this, will sprout new growth after a fire or being damaged in some other fashion.



I will end this posting with a chart of the snow depth near the crest of the Crystal Range, 8,600 feet (2,621 meters). The blue line is the snow depth, in inches, through February of last year. The red line is the current season’s snow depth. My hope is to see the snow depth increase significantly during the next few weeks. A snow depth in excess of 144 inches will help ameliorate the critical hydrological issues our portion of California faces, at least for this season.

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.
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Robert

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2021, 08:32:47 PM »
We have had quite the shift in our weather. The persistent weather pattern in the northern Pacific Ocean that brought us extremely dry weather and above average temperatures (for the most part) finally changed. We experienced one night of sub-freezing temperatures (nighttime low temperatures below 32 F (0 C) are becoming less common in our area!), and then a shift to stormy conditions with very low snow levels. The first major storm was accompanied by 53 mph winds, with 57 mph gusts, followed a few days later by an atmospheric river which resulted in high rainfall totals for the foothills and abundant snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.



This chart plots the snow depth this season to date (red line) vs. last year (blue line) through the end of February. The elevation of this site is 6,700 feet (2,042 meters). The snow depth looks impressive; however, there are other methods to interpret the data that give a completely different perspective.



This chart plots the same snow amounts as liquid equivalents. The green line is this year’s total to date; the red line last year’s totals, and the dashed blue line the 15-year average. Although the storms brought a great deal of precipitation, we are still woefully below average.



Here is another look at snow depth in my study area. This site is located at an elevation of 8,600 feet (2,621 meters).



Low elevation snow was more common in the past. This site is situated at an elevation of 3,625 feet (1,005 meters). There is currently a fair amount of snow on the ground at this site. Last year at this site, there was no snow for entire month of February.



This chart compares precipitation to date (red line) versus the 38-year average (blue line) at the Placerville farm. This chart gives the most accurate depiction of our current-season hydrological situation.

 Anomalous weather patterns, such as these, create excellent opportunities to study their impacts on plants and plant communities. I hope to be out again soon when the weather clears.

Until 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.
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Hoy

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2021, 09:11:26 AM »
Robert,

Interesting to see how plants regenerate after fire or other kind of damage in your area. This shows fire has been an important ecological factor there for a long time.

Glad to see you got some precipitation. Hope you get more :)

We still have very dry and cold weather and it seems it will last at least a couple more weeks. We had two days with temperatures close to 0C and got 10 cm of snow. I wished for more as the snow cover protects the plants against the low temperatures. We have down to -10C during the nights.
Trond Hoy, gardening on the rainy west coast of Norway.

Robert

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Re: Robert's Crystal Range Project - Year 3, 2021
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2021, 08:11:26 PM »


I will be starting another habitat restoration project in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The primary objective will be to restore the oak savannah – native bunch grass/native annual and perennial forb ecosystem on a 5.5 acre plot. My brother and I will be setting up a automated field weather station that can be monitored remotely. With this project I will have an opportunity to visit many familiar sites in our foothill region. I will have more information as the process evolves.

Until 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

 


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