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Author Topic: Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2024  (Read 475 times)

Robert

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Plants, Ecosystems, Climate - Northern California 2024
« on: January 13, 2024, 08:23:41 PM »
I generally get the new year started with a survey of the plant species growing on our Placerville property. It is a good way to evaluate our restoration efforts and how the oak savannah ecosystem on our property is responding to the rapid climatic shifts taking place in our region.

2023 was an interesting year: January 2023 began with La Niña conditions prevailing in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Temperatures in January matched the 30-year average. However, February and March turned cold with average temperatures running -3.58 F (-1.99 C) and -4.46 F (-2.48 C) below the 30-year average respectively. January 2023 had double the average precipitation. As we transitioned to summer, El Niño conditions rapidly developed in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Summer temperatures were average. By October, above average temperatures began to prevail, climaxing in December, with the average temperature 5.00 F (2.78 C) above the 30-year average. This was the warmest December we have ever recorded in the 40 plus years we have been recording climatic data at our Placerville property. Precipitation from October through December lagged behind average. Snow levels were extremely high and there was very little snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains by the end of December.

On a global scale, 2023 was the warmest year on record, 1.18 C (2.12 F) above the 20th Century average of 13.9 C (57.0 F). Global annual temperatures increased at an average rate of 0.06 C (0.11 F) per decade since 1850, and at more than three times the rate 0.20 C (0.36 F) since 1982. Rapidly increasing temperatures and other climatic shifts, such the increasing magnitude and duration of drought, are having profound and very visible impacts on our region.



Very slowly Greenleaf Manzanita, Arctostaphylos viscida ssp. viscida, is naturally becoming established on our property. This plant is about 10 years old and has been blooming each winter for a number of years now.



When we purchased this property about 50 years ago, Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, did not grow on the property. About 25 years ago, I gathered ripe berries from local Toyon stands and scattered the seeds on the property. A number of plants became established, grew to blooming age, produced berries, and from these, additional new plants have become established.



Pictured are several California Gray Pine, Pinus sabiniana, and Coyote Bush, Baccharis pilularis ssp. consanguinea. Both species are pioneer species that will eventually give way to Blue Oak, Quercus douglasii, and other climax species. Coyote Bush provides a protective haven where other plant species can germinate, grow, and eventually mature as the short-lived Coyote Bush slowly dies out. California Gray Pines are extremely drought tolerant, and grow quickly. They fix a tremendous amount of carbon. These trees eventually fall over. The carbon in their trunks and branches becomes sequestered in the soil. This carbon increases both the water holding capacity and nutrient holding capacity of the soil greatly, benefiting all the climax vegetation in the ecosystem.



Western Buttercup, Ranunculus occidentalis var. occidentalis grows abundantly on our property. My initial attempts at establishing this species in our Sacramento garden failed. Through continued effort this species now thrives and multiples naturally in our Sacramento garden. This is an example where broad genetic diversity allowed us to select forms well adapted to our Sacramento garden.



Sanicula crassicaulis prefers growing on shaded north facing slopes and other shaded locations. On our property, this patch grows under a fairly large Interior Live Oak, Quercus wislizenii. The flowers of this species are unassuming, however I enjoy the texture of the foliage immensely. Both Sanicula bipinnata and Sanicula bipinnatifida grow on our property. As of 11 January they had not emerged from the ground yet. The foliage of Sanicula bipinnata carries the scent of cilantro, which is very pleasant when one rubs their hands across the foliage.
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 2024
« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2024, 08:25:29 PM »


Chaparral Honeysuckle, Lonicera interrupta, is fairly common on our property. Free standing plants sprawl and mound over the ground. Among trees and shrubs it vines around the supporting plants.



The new foliage of Triteleia laxa is beginning to emerge from the ground. Many Themidaceae species grow on our property. Brodiaea elegans ssp. elegans, Dichelostemma volubile, Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus, Triteleia hyacinthina, and Triteleia laxa are all found growing on our property. A short walk down the road, Brodiaea minor, can be found growing on the Serpentine barrens. Many other species can also be found growing in our area. Despite the relatively small area, the Themidaceae species on our property exhibit a great deal of genetic diversity. Over the years I have made several unique selections from our property. Just last year I found a beautiful white flowering form of Dipterostemon capitatus ssp. capitatus and a very deep blue-violet form of the same species. Beyond our property the genetic diversity within this group expands exponentially, if one is willing to observe carefully and closely.
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 2024
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2024, 04:17:17 PM »


I recently conducted my first botanical survey of the 2024 season. I visited the Camp Creek canyon area of El Dorado County, California. The area visited is situated at an elevation of, plus and minus, 3,500 feet (1,067 meters). The snow had recently melted from this area and the plant life was just beginning to break dormancy, yet there was still a great deal to see.

It is the busy spring planting season for me. I will report on this survey over a two-week period, as time permits.
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 2024
« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2024, 06:31:14 PM »


I arrived on a cold and very windy morning at the Camp Creek trailhead in Eldorado National Forest. The trailhead is situated at an elevation of ~ 3,800 feet (1,158 meters) on the northern ridge above Camp Creek within the Lower Transition Life Zone of California. The snow had recently melted at this elevation and snow could still be seen on the ridges only a short distance above this site.

The 2021 Caldor Fire burned through this area. Extensive salvage logging and wildfire prevention measures are still in process at this site. Pictured above is a site that was once a small meadow. All the trees have been removed from the vicinity of the meadow with slash and debris pilled where the meadow was once located. This type of management is not conducive to the recovery of the meadow ecosystem. Sadly, forest managers are caught in a no win situation where no matter what they do somebody is going to be unhappy and critical of their actions.



A great deal of the native shrubby undergrowth in the surrounding forestland along the trail down to Camp Creek had resprouted from their basal crowns after the Caldor Fire. Forest crews had recently used heavy machinery to chip and remove all the new shrubby growth and in the process had churned the soil, destroying most of the native perennial species the process. In this bare mineral soil many invasive annual grasses were sprouting, which will quickly create a wildfire hazard much greater than that created by the resprouted native shrubbery.

Pictured above is one of the few stands of Bear Clover, Chamaebatia foliolosa, which was left intact. Bear Clover is a native perennial species, which is highly fire retardant. It is nearly impossible to get this species to ignite and burn.



As I descended into the Camp Creek canyon and the slopes became too steep for machinery and hand crews to safely and effectively work, the native undergrowth remained intact. Here I found the early spring blooming Cardamine californica in flowering.



Cardamine californica can range in color from pure white to shades of pink. White is the most frequently seen flower color of this species.



Down in a ravine where a perennial stream flows to Camp Creek I found a stand of Vaccinium parvifolium. This deciduous species was still dormant. I find the green stems of this species very attractive. Later in the spring white urn-shaped flowers will appear on bare branches followed by bright red fruit in the autumn.
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 2024
« Reply #4 on: March 27, 2024, 06:34:30 PM »


Traveling down the ravine toward Camp Creek I found large colonies of the annual Claytonia parviflora ssp. grandiflora.



Near Camp Creek there is an exposed rocky slope. This site is a natural rock garden. Later in the spring it will explode with color as many native annual, perennial, and bulbous species come into bloom. This site is an example of how many California native annual species are very effective and natural rock garden plants.



During snowmelt many seasonal streams flow down into Camp Creek, in this case creating a beautiful waterfall.



Camp Creek was flowing high but well below flood levels.

At a later date I will have a comprehensive report on this area that is inclusive of a greater portion of this region, over all seasons, and with details of many of the native plant species found in this area.
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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