"The Highlands" Presents:
Life on the Edge: Biodiversity in the Berryessa Snow Mountain Region
Lake County Library hosted this lecture by Victoria Brandon. She is Sierra Club Redwood Chapter Chair and is deeply involved in the preservation of our county's environment and cultural heritage.
Summary of a talk given at the Lakeport Library on April 18, 2015
by Sierra Club Redwood Chapter Chair Victoria Brandon
Berryessa Snow Mountain is one of the most biologically diverse regions of California. Stretching over 100 miles from blue oak woodlands near Putah Creek and the shores of Lake Berryessa to the sub-alpine habitat of Snow Mountain Wilderness in the Mendocino National Forest to the north, it contains six major habitat types which support animals including osprey, bald and golden eagles, river otters, mountain lions, tule elk, and rare plants found nowhere else on earth.
360,000 acres of federal public lands in the region have been proposed for permanent protection as a national monument.
Berryessa Snow Mountain's extraordinary biodiversity stems in part from what is known as the "edge effect": areas where two different habitat types come together tend to support unusually large numbers of species -- and BSM is made up of a complex mosaic of different habitats, so "edges" are everywhere.
The geological past profoundly affects the biological present, especially plants. Three tectonic plates (North American, Farallon, and Pacific) come together in the region, bringing ocean sediments, igneous, and metamorphic rocks into close conjunction. These include Coast Range Ophiolite, a remnant of ocean crust typically including serpentine rocks, nearly vertical layers of the "Great Valley Sequence," and the Franciscan Complex.
Berryessa Snow Mountain's botanical diversity arises from variegated geology and landscape forms, significant elevation changes, numerous microclimates, and the presence of large quantities of serpentine rock, which is rich in iron and magnesium and poor in calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. Few common plants can survive there, leaving an opening for specialists to become uniquely adapted to particular niches. Besides an incredible array of rare wildflowers and expanses of oak woodlands, mixed conifer forest, riparian plant communities and native grasslands, the region contains the most southerly occurrence of red fir and the rare McNab and Sargent cypresses.
Diverse habitat supports diverse wildlife, and linkages & connectivity yield ecological resilience. By providing an essential link between the southern Coast Range, eastern Bay Area and protected areas farther north and west, permanent protection of Berryessa Snow Mountain will improve the chances of at-risk species to move and adapt to climate change, something that is essential to their survival in the future.
The wonders of Berryessa Snow Mountain deserve permanent protection as a National Monument and as a legacy for our children and grandchildren.
Life on the Edge, Berryessa Snow Mountain proposed National Monument.
To learn more about Lake County and it's unique treasures please consider attending future lectures of the Know Lake County series every 3rd Saturday at 2:00 pm at the Lakeport Library February through November.
Each lecture is on a topic of an unique story of Lake County.
Beth Katherine Kaiman, LCPTV Staff
Lake County Peg TV
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