The Loss of the Santa Monica Mountain Ecosystem as a Result of Fires

By Davis Newman

September 29, 2020

Southern California faces an ecological crisis as increasingly frequent wildfires destroy native ecosystems and make way for highly flammable invasive species. It is at risk becoming a barren wasteland of dry yellow grasses instead of the few lush chaparrals and shrublands, which are endangered today.

    Although the plants of the Santa Monica Mountains are considered a fire-adapted species according to the National Park Service, it is by no means fire-dependent, nor is it assisted by the constant fires we see in recent years. Naturally, fires appear 70-100 years apart, giving native species time to overcome annual grasses that are unsustainable in California’s mediterranean climate. However, in recent years fires have been on rise, appearing almost yearly, which “favors the establishment of rapidly reproducing non-native annual grasses and forbs that have a higher ignition probability and produce cooler fires,” according to the Nation Park Service. At the current rate of fires, normally fire resistant ecosystems are permanently type converted into a grassland contributing to repeated cycle of fires.

   Ecosystems are not the only thing at risk due to the ever increasing fires as a result of ecosystem type conversion. Massive wildfires destroy homes and the 2018 Woolsey fire killed three people. Currently, smoke from the numerous currently active fires has heavily decreased the air quality, which will have adverse effects to health and climate that will be seen far into the future. In order to prevent the decline of native wildlife and spread of wildfires, we must educate ourselves and not support politicians or companies which spread misinformation about the ecosystem or shrink protected land in order to extract natural resources. Along with that, we must not enter newly burned sights, as it can spread invasive species through seedlings through seeds which have attached to your clothes, as well as listening to the National Park Service’s guidelines.

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