Many high alpine meadows in the Sierra Nevada are undergoing conversion to lodgepole pine woodland and forest. These pines are grand and beautiful in many ways, but its the meadows that are risking extinction since they have little ability to equilibrate with the pines given reduced wildfires. These vast meadows that are critical habitat for wildlife and wildflowers alike are losing out to marching pines that seem to particularly invade (and become established) on excessively dry years (see John Helms’ 1987 Madrono article). Notably, as with many climate mediated change, the changes aren’t necessarily gradual. They occur at distinct moment (punctuated equilibrium), when a system will transition suddenly from one state to another: e.g. wet meadow with running water becoming mesic pine stand. A ticking timebomb if you will. Once the conditions are right, and all the seeds are in place, the pines get through a critical 3-year growth cycle and become established even if conditions return to a wetter cycle.
One notable implication occurs at the pollinator level. Bumblebees, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators typically have fewer flowers available in a closed canopy pine forest vs. an alpine wildflower meadow. Where will Pooh get his honey when the pines come marching in? I’m not sure, but I know that big meadows certainly are important for pollinator services. Basically, we could start to see quick losses in pollinator habitat at high elevation if meadows are congested with pines.
With bittersweet timing, the government has closed its doors on Yosemite’s “birthday” as a national park (which should rightfully be called Ahwahneechee National Park had a historian been involved in determining the proper name of the local native peoples who lived here). This is a place very dear to my heart. A place where we as a family can experience excitement, being humble, and being alive.
The act of designating national parks and protected areas is arguably one of the greatest accomplishments of the US government. That said, these areas do need regular funding to maintain safe access, steward important resources, and provide user experiences that will increase ones interest in the park, its resources, and history. Staff and volunteers are an essential element of any park – whether you see them or not. Continue reading →
This seasons Rim Fire of the Sierra Nevada has been an extremely destructive wildfire. Now determined to be California’s 3rd largest fire in history, the burn envelop now extends some 237,000 acres (as of Sept 6) which equates to roughly 370 square miles. To put this into perspective – this would have burned more than 7 San Franciscos. Notwithstanding the extent, Cal Fire and other crews have done a phenomenal job protecting life and property. Somehow, only 11 homes have burned and there are no reported fatalities. We owe the men and women on the front line a huge thanks and maybe a hug wouldn’t hurt either.
A tribute to another photographer who sometimes had rain and sometimes sun. Either way he created amazing images from embracing nature. Into Yosemite Valley – circa 2010.
Rain is the force of life in Mediterranean climates. It’s not simply a thing that happens here or there – rather it defines wet and dry seasons. It creates possibilities for birds, worms and salmon alike. Today it’s raining here. It’s quite a surprise for the end of June, but I wanted to embrace it. It’s a beautiful caesura in the parching season of the hot, dry summer which is forecast for 2013. Enjoy the rain, the anomalous rain and all the life it brings at the most unpredictable moments. Continue reading →
Yes, you read that right. One of the most iconic, magical places on earth will only be accessible by trespass. This is what we call Fortress Conservation in the ecology field: buy the land – then put a fence around it to limit human interaction.
Erecting fences is a short-sighted, privilege-driven way of doing conservation. It’s not a way to promote conservation, it’s the way to kill it.
I must say that I’m very sad to see 2012 go (but still excited for 2013 at the same time). It was a thrilling year with many great happenings. There were also trying times when it seemed like this place we celebrate as home is aching. The winter is just the season to allow for rest, regeneration, slow days, and cold cuddle-up-with-someone nights. More to come on recapping 2012 and looking forward to 2013.
Here’s my desktop calendar January – free for all who want to use it as such. I wanted to celebrate the cold, quiet, slow times and know that they are as important as peak growing season. Here’s a photo from Yosemite valley celebrating just that. Click on the photo, then right click and save the image, or see the link below.