Tag Archives: Southern California

Understanding Wildfire in the Chaparral of Southern California

Toyon, or California Holly (Heteromeles arbutifolia) re-sprouts following a fire.

Whether naturally ignited or caused by man, fires are an inevitable part of life in Southern California. California’s history is dotted with wildfires, many severe and engulfing large tracts of the landscape. The 2009 Santa Barbara Fire, October 2007 wildfires, Cedar Fire of 2003, and 1993 Malibu Fire, among others, are recent memories of particularly devastating events. Undoubtedly, more wildfires will occur in the future.

As with Earthquakes, the question is not if the next wildfire will occur, but when. Records indicate that infrequent wildfires are a natural part of the ecology of the region we live in, although the interval between fires has shortened in recent times. In the Chaparral biome, the scrubland community that encompasses much of the Coast Ranges and foothills of several interior mountain ranges, the average fire interval is thirty to forty years. In certain areas the typical interval between fires can drop as low as ten to fifteen years, and span up to one hundred years in others. It has been estimated that the fire regime was much less frequent before human settlement: between thirty and one hundred fifty years. It has only been within the past century that the interval has shortened dramatically.

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The Concrete Jungle: Uncovering the Mystery of Wild Parrots in Southern California

by Madison Most

Photo by Sándor Havasi

It was a mild and clear winter day some two or three years ago. I had set out on a hike with a friend in Malibu’s renowned Escondido Falls trail, just off Pacific Coast Highway near Point Dume. A well-traveled trail, Escondido Falls did not present us with many wildlife species that day other than a couple of squirrels and a few crows. Right as we were nearing the end of the trail and about to re-enter the access road, a cacophony of squawks echoed through the canyon. Overhead, a flock of some ten or fifteen iridescent green birds fluttered about in a rather raucous and ungainly fashion. From their vibrant plumage, brash vocals, and distinctive body shape it was indisputable that they were parrots. But a flock of wild parrots? In Southern California?

I was actually quite excited to catch a glimpse of these infamous birds that I had heard tales of from friends and acquaintances. They had become somewhat of an urban legend in the LA area. No one could tell me however, how they arrived here or how they managed to survive and procreate in a land far from their home.

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