“From Oceans to Mountains: It’s All Ecology”
That’s right! Ecology is everywhere. Whether we are exploring the depths of the ocean, arid desert communities, or frigid mountaintops, we find abundant ecological interaction among organisms and environment. These fascinating relationships abound in every setting. California is an especially interesting setting for studying ecology. It has all these and more! Its 160,000 square miles is a center of extraordinary biodiversity and endemism, containing more plant and animal species and more endemic species than any other state in the United States. Its biological richness is a consequence of its physical complexity from the Pacific Ocean to the high Sierra Nevada Mountains, distributed along a 1000 mile distance from north to south that creates widely varying local bioclimatic conditions overlaid on the strong regional Mediterranean climate with mild wet winters and hot dry summers and its highly varied edaphic conditions. California may be seen as an ecological island separated from the rest of the continent by its high mountains and deserts. Our theme emphasizes the inherent ecological diversity of the state, fitting well between the theme of the 98th Annual Ecological Society of America Meeting’s emphasis on learning from the past and the 100th Annual Meeting in 2015 which will develop a blueprint to shape the future.
Numerous research programs of California universities have focused on soil and marine microbial communities in recent years. This complements the traditional studies of the mid-20th century where growth responses were examined from sea level to the timberline by more traditional methods, leading to breakthroughs in our understanding of many principles of ecological adaptation. For decades, California has led the U.S. in water conservation and clean water and clean air initiatives, in promoting alternative energy use and in recent years promoting initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. For ecologists, Sacramento is well located in the heart of California’s biodiversity in Central Valley, between the Pacific Ocean and the interior deserts, the Coast Ranges and the Sierra Nevada Mountains.California’s cultural diversity parallels its ecological and physical diversity. California is a true melting pot of global cultures, with waves of immigration from other states and countries, starting from the earliest history of Spanish exploration in 1535 by Hernando Cortes to its gold rush in the 1850s, and statehood in 1850. Today it is a state of 40 million people so ethnically diverse that no single group forms a majority of the population and it is the 8th largest economy in the world. California culture is exceedingly dynamic and known for its innovation, new technologies and free spirits, but also for recombining ideas from its many cultures into creative new forms.Sacramento, a city of 175,000 people and the state capital of California, is an excellent venue for ecologists to address the challenges of preserving biota and diversity in the presence of land use changes and urban pressures. Founded 164 years ago, Sacramento had few trees, but today it is known as the “tree city” with the largest urban forest in the U.S., planting 30,000 new trees between March 2012 to March 2013 to improve its urban climate by capturing carbon, stormwater and air pollution. Sacramento is the site where the 1850s gold rush began and lies at confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers along the northern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the largest estuary on the Pacific coast of North and South America. Sacramento is also at the hub of California’s extensive and diverse agricultural economy, the largest in the U.S.—home to at least 250 commercial crops that provide more than half of the fruits and vegetables for the country.