Term Paper: California Ground Squirrel

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Monterey Bay

The environment has clearly been impacted by human habitation. We recognize the damaging effects of much of modern life, but there has been a human impact on the environment extending back much further in history. The concentration of the human population into certain areas had an effect on the ecology of those areas on several levels, from the amount of food the population required to the effect of smoke from fires, waste disposal, clearing of ground for housing or agriculture, conflicts with other species in the area, and so on. The Monterey Bay region has long attracted human populations and has shown the effects of the human presence for centuries. The effect can be seen continuing today, indeed being accelerated today as the human footprint has expanded greatly in the area. Governments in the region have taken steps to protect the environment, notably by the creation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, one of the largest protected marine areas in the world.. Still, the region faces a number of environmental threats caused by human action. The region is also home to a number of plant and animal forms that can be endangered by changes in the ecology. The way human ecology has impacted the region over the centuries can be described, followed by some analysis of the life of the region today and the threats perceived by various observers.

Monterey Bay

Monterey is found on the Monterey Peninsula, 120 miles south of San Francisco, 60 miles south of San Jose, and 345 miles north of Los Angeles. The peninsula is bordered by Monterey Bay to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and Carmel Bay to the south. The area is marked by cool, dry summers and wet winters, though the different regions of Monterey County show considerable climatic diversity. The warmest months are July through October, the rainiest November and April, and summer months are often foggy, especially early and late in the day, because of the chilly and unchanging water temperatures of the Pacific Ocean.

Today, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) is a Federally protected marine area offshore of California's central coast and extending from Marin to Cambria, encompassing a shoreline length of 276 miles and 5,322 square miles of ocean. This area supports one of the world's most diverse marine ecosystems, home to numerous mammals, seabirds, fishes, invertebrates, and plants. The MBNMS was established for the purpose of resource protection, research, education, and public use and is part of a system of 13 National Marine Sanctuaries administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The Central Valley of California was originally an extension of the Pacific Ocean and was open to the sea at San Francisco. The region has been filled with sediment from the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Wrapped around the Central Valley along the coast from Santa Barbara to Monterey Bay are areas of mixed open forests of live oaks and pines. The coast from Monterey Bay northward is the home of the redwoods, the world's largest trees. This is also a protected area, though it is as well a major tourist attraction that brings many people through the Monterey Bay region.

Native American Populations

Human habitation in the region has a long history, and a number of California Indian tribes are associated with the region, among them the Bear River, Mattale, Lassick, Nogatl, Wintun, Yana, Yahi, Maidu, Wintun, Sinkyone, Wailaki, Kato, Yuki, Pomo, Lake Miwok, Wappo, Coast Miwok, Interior Miwok, Wappo, Coast Miwok, Interior Miwok, Monache, Yokuts, Costanoan, Esselen, Salinan and Tubatulabal tribes. These tribes had an abundance of corn and salmon for their diet as well as such game as deer, elk, antelope, and rabbit, all in the region north of Monterey Bay. A common feature of the tribes in this area was the use of the semi-subterranean roundhouse where elaborate Kuksu dances were held and are held to this day. These are rituals intended to assure the renewal of the world's natural foods both plant and animal.

Like everywhere else, in California, villages were fiercely independent and governed internally, the abundant food supply allowed for the establishment of villages of up to 1000 individuals, including craft specialists who produced specific objects and goods for a living. In smaller communities, each family produced all that was necessary for survival. In this region as in other parts of California, the tribal villages were fiercely independent and governed internally. They also had an abundant food supply, which allowed for the establishment of villages of up to one thousand individuals. In smaller communities, each family produced all that was necessary for survival, while in the larger communities, craft specialists would produce certain objects and goods needed by the village. Such large populations would have had some impact on the local ecology, though the abundance of food was such that the human population would not have depleted resources to any great degree beyond clearing areas for villages.

The human imprint would increase considerably with the coming of European settlers. The Spanish entry into California created tension with the Indian population and led to numerous Indian revolts. The Spanish responded with the mission system, organized by Junipero Serra and military authorities under Gaspar de Portola. As one writer notes,

Despite romantic portraits of California missions they were essentially coercive religious, labor camps organized primarily to benefit the colonizers. The overall plan was to first militarily intimidate the local Indians with armed Spanish soldiers who always accompanied the Franciscans in their missionary efforts. At the same time the newcomers introduced domestic stock animals that gobbled up native foods and undermined the free or "genitle" tribes efforts to remain economically independent. A well established pattern of bribes, intimidation and the expected onslaught of European diseases insured experienced missionaries that eventually desperate parents of sick and dying children and many elders would prompt frightened Indian families to seek assistance from the newcomers who seemed to be immune to the horrible diseases that overwhelmed Indians.

Much of the land was taken from the Indians and was subject to more intense farming and the taking of other resources. The European population had a major impact on the native population as well with the introduction of diseases such as smallpox, syphilis, diphtheria, chickenpox, and measles, leading to the deaths of countless Indians around the Spanish population centers. Even before that, there had been a reduction in population caused by the unhygienic environment of the Spanish population centers, and a numb er of disease epidemics further cut into the population. As much as sixty percent of the Indian population may have died as a result of these disease epidemics. The ecological damage was considerable to the Indian population and the environment as well:

The impact of the mission system on the many coastal tribes was devastating. Missionaries required tribes to abandon their aboriginal territories and live in filthy, disease ridden and crowded labor camps. Massive herds on introduced stock animals and new seed crops soon crowded out aboriginal game animals and native plants. Feral hogs ate tons of raw acorns, depriving even the non-missionized tribes in the interior of a significant amount of aboriginal protein. Murderous waves of epidemic diseases swept over the terrified Mission Indian tribes resulting in massive suffering and death for thousands of native men, women and children.

The Mission system and the communities that grew around the missions were certainly detrimental to the ecology of the region.

Current State

The Monterey Bay region benefits from a lower population density than is found to the north near San Francisco. There are population clusters at the northern and southern ends, but generally the south Coast Ranges are virtually empty. Larger settlements can be found only along the El Camino Real. The plains around Monterey Bay and the valleys of the Salinas, Santa Maria, and Santa Ynez rivers feature lettuce, carrots, other truck crops, and dairying as significant industry, while livestock ranching dominates the countryside. Tourists flock to Hearst's Castle at San Simeon and to the chain of missions along Highway 101, but otherwise, this is largely a country through which people travel on their way to or from Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Such travel has a harmful effect on the ecology of the region by polluting the air from the thousands of automobiles traveling through the area. To address the issue, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors created the air pollution control district in 1965, and in 1968, Santa Cruz County joined Monterey County to form a two-county unified district. In 1969, the state designated the three counties of Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz as the North Central Coast Air Basin, and in 1970, the federal Clean Air Act formalized the responsibility of state and local governments to manage air quality in their regions. In 1974, Monterey and Santa Cruz County Unified Air Pollution Control District merged with the San Benito County Air Pollution Control District to form the Monterey Bay Unified Air… [END OF PREVIEW]

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California Ground Squirrel.  (2007, October 10).  Retrieved May 25, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/california-ground-squirrel/7015

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