Communities

General information

Channel Islands

Community Traits

The climate of the Channel Islands is moderated by wind moving the cool, wet ocean air. These islands, like much of coastal Southern California,  have a Mediterranean ecosystem. Our garden displays only a taste of what the Channel Islands have to offer as the islands themselves are home to twelve distinct plant communities.

Community Adaptations

Plants have adapted to the humidity of the islands by using the water in the air as a source of hydration in the summer months. This summer fog, what we might experience as “June Gloom,” is a key water source for many plants on the Channel Islands.

Coastal Chapparal

Community Traits

Coastal Chaparral can be visibly distinguished from Sage Scrub by its dark green color (whereas Sage Scrub is more gray than green). This community is found up to 5,000 feet above sea level, with precipitation of up to 40 inches per year in those higher elevations.

Community Adaptations

Most plants of the Coastal Chaparral community have several adaptations that help them live in dry, fire-prone habitats. One adaptation you might observe in our garden is that a lot of these plants have small, waxy leaves. This waxy layer helps the plant keep in water by offering protection from evaporation.

Coastal Sage Scrub

Community Traits

Most people who live in California live in areas that were once naturally Coastal Sage Scrub. As a result of human development, this ecosystem is endangered with less than 10% of the original habitat still existing. The remains of this community are present in coastal regions under 4,000 feet above sea level, where foggy marine layers help balance climate in the dry summers.

Community Adaptations

Plants here often have shallow roots so they can easily utilize water from rain and fog. Many plants in this community are drought deciduous, meaning that in the summer through the fall they lose their leaves.

Dune

Community Traits

Dunes are important to coastlines because they help protect inland areas from strong winds and storms. These communities exist close to the water, where wind and waves are constantly changing the Dune structure. There are several different classifications of Dunes because the further they are from the actual water, the more dense they become and the higher biodiversity they have.

Community Adaptations

Plants that grow in Dune communities must adapt to a hostile environment. The sands that make up Dunes do not have a lot of nutrients in them, and the Dunes are subject to both wind and waves. Some plants that live here have adapted to stressors with flexible roots that can easily move with the changing landscape.

Coastal Riparian

Community Traits

These communities exist near constant water flow, including rivers and where those rivers enter the ocean. They are important for the movement of water, the sediment that travels with it, as well as for many amphibians and other animals. Dead plant materials from Riparian communities are major contributors to the nutrients in the rivers that they live along.

Community Adaptations

Compared to most other communities in Southern California, Riparian Coastal communities have the benefit of constant access to water, so their adaptations differ from those in other communities. Many of these plants are known as hydrophytes, meaning that they have adapted to be able to live only in or on the water.

Baja California

Community Traits

Baja California is a peninsula of Mexico that contains coastlines, mountains, and deserts. This ecoregion contains some of the most well preserved areas of Mexico, and many of the plant species are endemic, meaning that they are species which exist only in this specific region.

Community Adaptations

Plants in this community have adapted to live in generally low elevation areas, facing constant wind coming in from the ocean. This wind brings a lot of salty ocean air to the region, and the community is so close to the water that soil is often salty as well. Some plants deal with this excess salt by pushing it out from their leaves, others filter it out through the roots.