Natural History Books, I'm reading about Fire in California, how about you? (book review)

California Natural History Guides, Introduction to Fire in California by David Carle, University of California Press, Copyright 2008 by the Regents of the University of California.

There are so many interesting facts in this book. I think most people understand now, that fire in many ecosystems is healthy, natural, and necessary. In the past many demonized fire as an enemy, or called fires natural disasters.

The book covers what fire is, and how it behaves in the wild, the fire regimes and the various vegetation types and plant communities that evolved with fire, are adapted to fire, and rely on particular fire intervals for survival. It then covers the history of land management and forestry, and current discussions about these topics. Finally, there is a section about living in a Wildlife-Urban Interface and how to adapt to life with fire.

I enjoy the section about fire regimes and the plants that rely or have adapted to fire. For example, pyrophytes are fire loving plants that only sprout in favorable post-fire conditions, and are known as fire-followers. Plants survive fire by sprouting from underground bulbs, corms, rhizomes, or banked seeds that germinate from fire. Some plants are known as obligate resprouters, and must resprout after everything above ground are consumed by fire (or mostly). Most native hardwoods do this, but only Coast Redwood does this in the Conifer group. In the Chaparral shrublands, all the plants are adapted to fire, and some seeds germinate from a reaction to smoke, or some resprout from a burl, or both. Some of these are fire neutral, but will continue their legacy through resprouting or seed. This is known as a facultative sprouter. Chamise is the most common example, and is used to calculate moisture levels to determine fire level dangers like you see on CalFire Stations, etc.

Closed-cone Pines and Cypresses are often adapted to fire to the point of dependency. A cone is called serotinous if the seeds are only released from the heat of a fire. Some trees are more strongly serotinous than others. Knobcone Pines are very serotinous, but Coulter Pines are more so next to Chaparral, and less so in less fire prone areas. Most Cypress trees are serotinous. I’m not sure if when homesteaders planted Monterey Cypress all over, if they heated the cones to germinate over a campfire, or if they dug up starts from their native groves, and transplanted them. Either way, I see rows of them planted at old homesteads and ranches in places where they can easily survive naturally (same climate).

Well, that’s enough about this book for now, give it a read if it sounds interesting!

How about you, have you read, or are you reading a book about Natural History of any kind?

Cheers!

8 Likes

That sounds like a very interesting book. I just finished Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter by Ben Goldfarb and a bit before that I enjoyed The Last Butterflies: A Scientist’s Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature by Nick Haddad. I think the next one on my list is Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard by Douglas W. Tallamy. Been a little busy/preoccupied to really get into reading lately but I think once I settle into something that will change.

6 Likes

One of my favorites is Tropical Nature: Life and Death in the Rain Forests of Central and South America by Ken Miyata and Adrian Forsyth. It’s an excellent collection of essays on the natural history and ecology of the neotropics.

It has lots of charming lines like the following describing typical frog parenting pratices:

They simply carry their charges to a convenient creek, where they abandon them with typical froglike callousness.

Aquagenesis: The Origin and Evolution of Life in the Sea by Richard Ellis is another fantastic read with the bonus that it’s illustrated by the author, who is an excellent artist as well as researcher and author.

Oceans of Kansas by Michael J. Everhart is a great read about the vast interior sea that covered North America when non-avian dinosaurs still wandered the planet. It’s a bit dry at times, but is still quite good.

I’ve been reading quite a few books on past and present extinctions, and some of them are pretty good. When I’m back at my non-work computer I’ll pull up some of the titles.

4 Likes

I am reading Lichens of North America by Brodo et al… Most of the book is about identification but the first chapters are a really good general introduction. And the photos are awesome.

2 Likes

My current one for a chapter or two before going to bed is Spying on Whales.

Goodreads summary

@leafybye , have you read California’s Fading Wildflowers: Lost Legacy and Biological Invasions by Richard A. Minnich?

No, sounds like a good one to check out!

I dont know about “Natural History book”, but I am reading a nice book about a lady (in Australia) who is trying to reforest her property back into sub-tropical rainforest after the area was logged for timber in the early 1900s. Its called “White beech” by Germaine Greer. The book talks about all the struggles that took place, for example, her trying to fight an uncountable amount of invasive species that can cover a whole property in weeks.

Its a good book…

3 Likes

Now I’m listening to a very old Botany text in the public domain and recorded by LibriVox. Search “librivox the elelments of Botany.”

Of course a lot of new knowledge has since been learned about plants, but other than some finer points, especially concerning xylem and phloem, whose terms didn’t seem to be invented yet. However, mostly the information is still correct. Interesting to listen to.

Also on Google ebooks free download.

The Elements of Botany by
William RUSCHENBERGER (1807 - 1895)

Although it is quite antiquated in terms of understanding and even chlorophyll is not mentioned.

One of the most recent I read was Neptune’s Ark by David Rains. It is about the fossil marine vertebrates (non-fish) of the North American west coast.

David Quammen’s Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, published in 2012, in which he details the increasing number of zoonoses, how they may have crossed over from animal to human, details the efforts made by researchers, and in which he suggested that a coronavirus was a leading candidate to cause the next ‘big one’. A bit on the lengthy side, but an interesting read.

2 Likes

This topic was automatically closed 60 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.