Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve: Color in the Western Mojave Desert This Week
I discussed back in 2010 in this post.
Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park. The park preserves 580 acres of what turns out to be the native land cover of the Mojave Desert west of Lancaster and Palmdale: juniper woodland and Joshua Trees.
A century ago, this high end of the desert was cleared of Joshua Trees and Juniper, usually by chaining (dragging a huge chain between tractors that knocked down whole forests) or fires in order to put in thousands of acres of alfalfa fields and other crops. Large areas were reserved for sheep and cattle grazing as well. The natural plant cover was long gone. Much later, some of the abandoned fields started to recover, and the showy wildflowers are the pioneer species that are the first to recolonize disturbed lands. Joshua Trees can no longer recolonize the valley floor; they don't have any method to spread their seeds widely (Joshua Trees were once spread in giant ground sloth poop...). Despite their incredible beauty, the wildflower displays are a monument to our extensive alteration of the environment that once existed here.
Many of the agricultural fields have been abandoned for lack of water and other economic reasons, but our utilization of the desert for our human needs continues. Notice in the picture below the huge windmills in the distance, and what I think is a large solar array.