Global Climate Change Effects on the Chaparral

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For many years, global climate change has been a widely discussed topic. Throughout the existence of Earth, natural cycles of heating and cooling have occurred. While scientists generally agree that these changes are not solely caused by humans, they do acknowledge that human activity has accelerated the natural process of climate change. As a result, both the earth and its inhabitants face new challenges. According to research from, the average rate of temperature increase on Earth is 1.2-1.4°F per century. This has made “global warming” a central focus in this area of research.

Previously, the term “global warming” solely referred to the rise in average earth temperature due to human activities. Nevertheless, a fresh term called “global climate change” has appeared. This term incorporates additional elements such as precipitation, temperature, ocean currents, sea level rise, lengthening seasons, and more. It highlights that climate change encompasses more than merely global warming. These natural fluctuations endure over extended durations ( Therefore, how can humans accelerate transformations on Earth when nature requires thousands of years to do so?

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The greenhouse effect is responsible for the elevation of Earth’s surface temperature. This phenomenon occurs when specific gases accumulate in the atmosphere, trapping heat and causing global warming. The increased concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air is primarily due to human activities driven by industrialization and energy demands. Over time, CO2 levels have significantly risen from 278 ppm to 375 ppm since 1750. Consequently, there are currently approximately 3.75 × 10-8 liters of carbon dioxide for every liter of air.

The concentration of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, CFC’s, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and ozone, is at its highest level in the past 650,000 years. This significant amount contributes to the greenhouse effect. The increase in these gases is caused by activities such as burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and industrial processes ( Climate change affects natural phenomena like changes in the earth’s orbit, ocean currents or solar output (, leading to severe consequences for the biosphere.

According to the EPA, climate change can result in various impacts like habitat changes, rising sea levels, species destruction or extinction, alterations in species’ range or distribution, and shifts in growing seasons ( These impacts are also evident in the chaparral biome which is one of the most diverse biomes globally. states that these Mediterranean-climate regions cover less than 5% of Earth’s surface but support around 48,250 known vascular plant species accounting for nearly 20% of the global total. Consequently, plants and animals within this biome rely on each other’s requirements as they are interdependent. Any slight modification in one species will affect others living within the chaparral biome. Contrary to popular belief, fires are not essential for the survival of the chaparral biome despite its vulnerability to wildfires due to its temperate climate with mild rainy seasons and hot dry summers. states that the chaparral can suffer permanent damage from fire, depending on its intensity, frequency, and severity. The website suggests that each type of chaparral is uniquely adapted to a specific fire regime, rather than solely to fire itself. The impacts of global climate change on the chaparral are noticeable in the heightened occurrence and strength of fires, particularly in California, as a result of hotter and drier summers and shorter rain seasons.

John Keeley, a research ecologist and chaparral expert, states that fires in an ecosystem that is adapted to withstand them every 60 to 100 years now occur more frequently, happening every 10 years or even more often. These fires are primarily caused by human activities rather than being natural occurrences in the chaparral region. The situation is further aggravated by ongoing climate changes. This continuous pattern of frequent fires could potentially hinder the recovery of the chaparral and allow non-native species to dominate.

Two vulnerable species found in the chaparral are Spermophilus beecheyi and Prunus ilicifolia. Spermophilus beecheyi, also known as the California ground squirrel, resides in the chaparral habitat and mainly feeds on plants. It plays a crucial role as a food source for many other animals within this ecosystem. The risk of extinction for this species is relatively low because it has the ability to easily relocate to other biomes and survive there. Interestingly, recent reports indicate that its range has expanded into Washington and Nevada ( However, with ongoing climate change, there is a possibility that the California ground squirrel might completely abandon the chaparral biome, leading to reduced food availability for other animals dependent on it.

The decrease in food supply of Prunus ilicifolia may cause a decline in populations of other animals dependent on it for sustenance. In addition, wildfires can result in increased frequency and intensity, potentially killing members of this species. Also referred to as the Hollyleaf cherry or Evergreen cherry, Prunus ilicifolia is a native plant found in California’s chaparral region. It bears edible cherries that are consumed by herbivores and serves as a vital food source for both the plant itself and other animals within the chaparral ecosystem.

This plant’s survival relies on the absence of fire for an extended period of time. While it has a slow growth rate, its lifespan is considerable ( Unlike other chaparral plants, the Hollyleaf cherry’s seeds are unable to survive fire and are thus eliminated by it. Consequently, the increasing fires linked to climate change present a substantial danger to the plant’s ability to reproduce. Considering the swift pace of climate change, it is unrealistic to expect the plant to adjust or adapt to more frequent fires.

The evolution of plants and animals has occurred over a long period, possibly thousands or millions of years. Nature adjusts to ensure the survival of various species as the environment changes. However, global climate change has disrupted this natural process, putting many species at risk of extinction if these changes continue. Within just one century, significant alterations have occurred that make it unrealistic to expect species to quickly adapt to new conditions.

It is the responsibility of humans to take every possible action to alleviate the strain on the planet and its residents, in the hope that these alterations are reversible.

Works Cited

  1. Butler, Rhett A. 2007 Climate change will increase extinction risk, especially in the tropics. http://news. mongabay. com/2007/0326-climate. html Mckinney, John. 2009
  2. Drought, Not Old Chaparral, Aiding Wildfires. http://www. miller-mccune. com/science_environment/drought-aiding-wildfires-1418 Unknown Author. 2009
  3. Climate Change. ttp://www. epa. gov/climatechange/basicinfo. html Unknown Author. 2009 World Biomes. http://www. blueplanetbiomes. org/world_biomes. htm Unknown Author. 2003
  4. Biomes of the World. http://www. thewildclassroom. com/biomes/chaparral. html Unknown Author. 2009
  5. Climate Change. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Global_climate_change Unknown Author. 2009 California Ground Squirrel. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/California_Ground_Squirrel Unknown Author. 2009
  6. Prunus ilicifolia. http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Prunus_ilicifolia

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Global Climate Change Effects on the Chaparral. (2018, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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