Land Formation and Geology Point Reyes National Seashore
The Point Reyes National Seashore is found on the coastline of the Pacific Ocean of Northern California. Point Reyes’ geology is separated from that of mainland Marin County by the San Andreas Fault. Point Reyes is founded on ancient granites and gneisses. The area includes oceanic rocks, landslides, rivers, beaches, and more. The Pt. Reyes Peninsula is what geologists may call an “immigrant” because it has literally immigrated into it’s present location. The peninsula is established by the San Andreas Fault line and the plate tectonic movements in the area. The plate that the Peninsula sits on move at an average rate of 2 inches per year and has moved up the coast from Monterey Bay in the past 15 million years!
Cultural Past and History
Point Reyes extends back to 5,000 years to the Miwok Indians who were the first human inhabitats of the Peninsula. To this day, there are over 120 known village sites existing in the park. In honor of the Miwok Indians, there is a recreated Miwok Village, called Kule Loklo, existing in the area.
At Drake’s Beach one can also visit the Ken Patrick Visitor Center where they can learn about the famous explorers who set foot in the area. Sir Francis Drake debarked in the area in 1579 as the first European to do so.
Later on, during the 19th and 20th centuries, government officials established many lifesaving stations and a lighthouse to prevent fatalities in the dangerous coastal waters of Pt. Reyes
To learn more about the Pt. Reyes culture and history, many ranger-guided programs are available such as “On Shaky Ground”, “Kule Loklo Walk”, the Daily Ranger program, “A Look Into the Lens”, “Illuminating the Pt. Reyes Light”, “Journey of the Whales”, “Historic Lifeboat Station Open House”, “Experience Elephnat Seals”, or “The Wildflower Walk”. All of these programs are available at the nps.gov website sited in the bibliography.
Human Impacts and Habitat Restoration
Since the Point Reyes National Seashore is a public land, humans have made a significant impact on the area. The most significant impact that threatens the land is the introduction of non-native species. Two species that are prevalent non-natives are the Ehrharta Erecta weed and the Fallow Deer. The Ehrharta Erecta weed is a quickly growing weed that has been choking out other plants in the area, specifically native grasses and mosses. The weed invades areas so densely that other plants cannot reproduce in the area because of lack of room. The Fallow Deer is an aggressive and competitive large deer that damages the soil with its aggressive hooves and creates run-off into rivers and streams. The high production rate of these deer could also harmfully affect the native deer in the area by adding competition.
The climate of the Point Reyes National Seashore is considered a Mediterranean climate. The precipitation season extends from October to March while the area experiences a dry season beginning in April and lasting until September. Uncharacteristic of a Mediterranean climate, the Pt. Reyes area does encounter large amounts of fog, which is understandably a quality of the Northern California coastal area in which it sits. The different areas of the Pt. Reyes Seashore vary in weather as do most hills and valley.
The area also is made up of different types of rock and soil. The peninsula rests on a bedrock of granite while the eastern area of the San Andreas fault is made up of rock of the Franciscan Foundation. As for soils, granite soil makes up most of the land, except for that east of the fault. This granite soil allows for sizable Bishop Pine forests as well as Douglas Fir tree forests. However, one cannot find much of the common coastal Redwood tree because it is unable to grow in any of the granite soil found everywhere except east of the fault.
The ecological successional process is an event that occurs after a disturbance in a community. In other words, after a loss of life occurs in a community, the community goes through a successional stage where it works to replace the preceding one over time. There are four stages of this succession, which include early succession, mid succession, later succession, and the final climax stage. Mid succession includes primarily shrubs while later succession includes mostly pines. As for the final or climax stage, it is comprised of typically hardwood trees, or k-strategists. Communities thrive to reach this climax stage because it means that the community finally has a more stable collection of organisms within it in comparison with its preceding community.
Ecologically, fire can benefit a community by jumpstarting the successional process. In modern society, fires are viewed negatively because of the destruction they can cause people, their homes, and their communities. However, in nature, fires can help diversify many communities. As a disturbance, fire forces some species to die and other new species to grow in their place. This causes more diversity in an area and can help species because stronger in the face of predators and/or disease. This process is very important, especially in forests, because fires clear the duff from forest soils, which allows seeds to sink into the mineral soil underneath. Fire also helps many species that rely on it. An example of a species like this would be the Bishop Pine, who rely on fires for dispersal and reproduction as the area that supports it uses fire as a tool to keep the high quantities of the species controlled.
One memorable fire that benefited the Bishop Pine is the famous 1995 Mt. Vision Fire, a three-day blaze that arose from a campfire in the area. During a campout, a group of teenagers unintentionally failed to completely put out their campfire, which started the massive inferno. The fire hit many species, ranging from the Bishop Pine to the Coastal Shrub and the Dough Fir Forest, as well as plants in the riparian zone and grassland. The flames also engulfed over fifty homes. Sadly, this fire was not a beneficial fire to the area, but still some species did benefit at least!
As for the experiment, from the research I have found and the information I have discovered while recording data from the different succession stages, I will hypothesize that the Mt. Wittenberg Trail (which is in its climax stage) will have more species than the Bayview Trail. My research supports this assertion, as a trail in the climax stage will typically always contain more species and diversity than the trail in the early succession stage.
If a transect sample in two different areas is conducted, then the Mt. Wittenberg Trail will have more diversity than the Bayview Trail because it is in the climax stage (K-strategists).
During the month of March, Redwood High School Ecology classes are venturing to the Pt. Reyes. National Seashore to conduct an experiment on two transect areas as well as develop our education on the area of study.
Preceding the trip, we will gather an assortment of information about the topics of study that will be conducive to our experiment and experience! When we arrive at the site of the experiment, we will use transects and quadrats for two communities each. One will be in its climax stage and on in its early succession stage. We will record the data we find in each area and use it to compare each community and stage.
Data: See attached
Graph: See attached
As previously stated in the introduction and hypothesis, the trail in Pt. Reyes that was in its climax stage will have more species and diversity than that of a trail in its early succession stage. The graphs and research surely backed up this claim. The first transect had about a third more coverage compared to the second transect as it also had twice the density and almost three times the diversity!
• Evens, Jules G. The Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula Point Reyes National Seashore Association, 1993
• Keator, Glenn. Introduction