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Ecology of Florida
The ecology of Florida is remarkable due to its climate and diverse ecological regions. From the northwestern panhandle to the Everglades, differences in hydrology, climate, landforms, soil types, flora and fauna shape each ecoregion, creating a complex and unique landscape that has been recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot. A misconception often associated with the Florida landscape is that the changes of density and diversity of flora seem chaotic or random, however, Eugene Odum's research states that "over the long term plant habits showed remarkable continuity." The introduction of different species caused certain evolutionary developments - some plants grew more quickly and in larger numbers, while others could survive longer - to sustain themselves in a dense environment.
Ecology of the Sierra Nevada
The ecology of the Sierra Nevada, located in the U.S. state of California, is diverse and complex: the plants and animals are a significant part of the scenic beauty of the mountain range. The combination of climate, topography, moisture, and soils influences the distribution of ecological communities across an elevation gradient from 1,000 to 14,500 feet (300 to 4,400 m). Biotic zones range from scrub and chaparral communities at lower elevations, to subalpine forests and alpine meadows at the higher elevations. Particular ecoregions that follow elevation contours are often described as a series of belts that follow the length of the Sierra Nevada. There are many hiking trails, paved and unpaved roads, and vast public lands in the Sierra Nevada for exploring the many different biomes and ecosystems.
The lowest-elevation biotic zone in the Sierra Nevada is found along the boundary with the Central Valley. This zone, stretching in elevation from 500 to 3,500 feet (150 to 1,070 m), is the foothill woodland zone, an area that is hot and dry in the summer with very little or no snow in the winter. The foothills are vegetated with grasslands of mostly non-native grasses, mixed grasslands and woodlands savanna, a foothill woodland community of blue oak and gray pine, and chaparral. Many of the plant communities are similar to those found on the inner California Coast Ranges. Animals typical of this zone include black bear, ringtail cat, coyote, gray squirrel, bobcat, California mule deer, and skunk. In the foothills of the northern portion of the Sierra Nevada, toyon and chamise often co-dominate certain open serpentine chaparral communities.
Beginning near the 3,000-foot (900 m) elevation, the hot, dry summers and cool, moist winters of the Mediterranean climate give rise to the lower montane forest zone. This zone is also known as the yellow pine forest zone. The accumulation of several feet of snow during the winter is not uncommon and can stay on the ground for several months. The diversity of tree species found in this zone make this a beautiful and interesting forest to explore. The indicator species for the lower montane forest are the ponderosa pine and the Jeffrey pine: the ponderosa pine generally occurs on the west side of the Sierra, while the Jeffrey pine occurs on the east. The lower montane forests also include trees such as California black oak, sugar pine, incense-cedar, and white fir. Animals that may be found in this zone include the dark-eyed junco, mountain chickadee, western gray squirrel, mule deer, and American black bear. The endangered Yosemite toad is found in montane forests of the central Sierra Nevada, at elevations of 4,790 to 11,910 feet (1,460 to 3,630 m).
The character of the Lower Montane Forest changes with latitude. North of Grass Valley, the lower montane forest ranges from 2,000 to 4,000 feet (600 to 1,200 m), with less ponderosa pine and more Douglas-fir. In the middle Sierra, south to the Merced River, the lower montane forest has the same elevation, but precipitation decreases and the forest mixes with chaparral. In the southern Sierra, the lower montane forest occurs between 3,000 to 5,000 feet (900 to 1,500 m), but can range as high as 6,000 feet (1,800 m), with ponderosa pine dominating the landscape. Unlike further north, the geology of the southern lower montane forest is dominated by granite.
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