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A Look at California's Changing Environment

Essay by   •  January 9, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  2,154 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,627 Views

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Introduction

California is known as being one of the most biologically diverse regions not only in this country, but also in the world (Defenders, 2006). Within its 160,000 square miles, California's varied habitat harbors more unique species of plants and animals than any other state. The diversity of climates and landscapes, and all the barriers to migrations such as rivers, mountains, and deserts, has led over thousands of years to the evolution of a large number of isolated species and varieties of animals, many of which are found only in California. For example, there are about 30,000 species of insects recorded from California, 63 freshwater fishes, 46 amphibians, 96 reptiles, 563 birds, 190 mammals, and about 8,000 plants (Kammerer, 2004). The unique composition of the Golden State's wildlife is what makes its landscapes so beautiful.

Yet it is also true that today, California's extraordinary diversity is being lost in many important habitats throughout the coastal state (Wikipedia, 2006). It is estimated that over twenty percent of California's naturally occurring species of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are classified as endangered, threatened, or "of special concern" by agencies of the state and federal governments (Kammerer, 2006).These threats can be measured throughout the state whether on land or in the water.

Biologists believe that the basic cause of this drastic wildlife reduction is an ever-increasing human population that is degrading the environment at an ever-accelerating rate. California's population is estimated to increase from approximately 36 million residents to 50 million over the next three decades (Wikipedia, 2006). With the state's population as concentrated as it is in most areas, the only places that can accommodate this type of growth are existing wildlife habitats. California has seen its share of rapid growth in the past. The once heavily forested state is now much less covered, resulting in high levels of degradation. The degradation will only continue to get worse in the future with such a drastic rise in population and residency.

Biodiversity

Many of California's unique species live in restricted habitats, under special conditions to which they have been adapting for hundreds or thousands of years. When the special conditions are compromised by human activity and carelessness, the species can become endangered. As people change or destroy these habitats, their native inhabitants die or fail to reproduce, resulting in a great reduction in wildlife population and biodiversity (Kammerer, 2004).

The forests of California have acted as homes to many important species of native animals. By destroying these forests, humans are taking away important wildlife living space, forcing species to relocate to alternate and usually smaller habitats where the species eventually begin to die off.

Deforestation

Deforestation has many negative effects on the region in which it occurs. One of the main reasons causing deforestation is economic gain. Many people and businesses look at our forests as possible sources of money. These individuals intentionally exploit the forest because they are primarily concerned with the profit involved. In the short term, they can make huge profits selling the timber or creating lucrative real estate opportunities (Kammerer, 2004). Residents of the deforested areas are often not concerned with the results because they see the benefits of the destructive process in the form of tax breaks, community development, increased property values, and local commerce. What they do not realize is that the destruction of the forests negatively affects California in many ways.

California's deforestation also has a very negative impact on biodiversity. The process of deforestation in California is destroying the state's lovely landscape. Consequently, many animals and plants that live in the region face the probable specter of extinction. The extinction of these plants and animals eventually leads to a diminished gene pool (Kammerer, 2004). Unfortunately, it does not stop there. The lack of biodiversity and a reduced local and planetary gene pool could have many unforeseen ramifications, some of which could be fatal to the future of humanity. In addition, there are ethical, aesthetic and philosophical question regarding humankind's responsibility for other forms of organic life.

The climate can also see drastic changes as a result of losing these valuable forested areas. After deforestation, an area's soil often becomes dry and barren and can no longer provide important nutrients for future growth and farming (Kammerer, 2004). Without the presence of the trees' root system, the soil begins to lose moisture and, after prolonged exposure to the sun, can become desert sand that cannot be restored to a usable condition. Another way the climate is affected is that the temperatures in the once shaded areas increase, making it impossible for animals to seek shelter in any extreme heat circumstances. Without the shelter, the animals often become exhausted and, eventually, die (Defenders, 2006).

Forests also act as an important source of clean air and water. The trees and plants within a forest system absorb harmful gases and transform them into valuable oxygen, emitting the oxygen into our atmosphere. With today's air pollution, the oxygen produced by these plants is even more important than ever. Forest trees and plants also take moisture from the air, land, an ocean and filter the water to return clean water to the soil and the environment. Much of the polluted water that is found in the atmosphere is converted to usable and less damaging water. Without the help of plants, our environment is even more susceptible to the effects of air and water pollution.

Aside from the physical and environmental effects, California's deforestation can also have negative and noticeable social effects. Without the ability to use land for important resources like food, farming, and to provide other important natural resources, the economy of California will be negatively impacted in the long term. Once the timber industry has sunk its teeth into the forests and used all of the forested land to take all of its wood, the timber industry and its related industries will suffer severe economic losses. With that economic devastation comes a suffering local economy that can no longer depend upon the jobs, capital, and tax dollars that were once brought forth by the industry (Kammerer, 2004).

Aside from the environmental and economic losses, California residents will no longer have access to beautiful landscapes and natural scenery. The scenery of California is what has attracted

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