Natural Sightings #573 - Sunset and Oaks.jpeg

A late afternoon fog rolls in as the sun sets.

Lisa Baker took this photo from the back side of Bear Valley Springs when a late afternoon fog rolled in as the sun was setting. There are still remnants of snow visible on the ground in the image; otherwise it could almost be a photo of the African savannah, with Valley Oaks (Quercus lobata) standing in for acacia trees.

In fact, one of the major biomes of the Tehachapi Mountains and California in general is savannahs — specifically, Valley Oak savannahs. The term savannah is used to describe landscapes that are a mixture of grassland and woodland.

Savannahs throughout the world are characterized by grasslands that include trees, but the trees are spaced far enough apart that their canopies do not close, allowing lots of light to reach the ground below.

Other universal characteristics of savannahs include seasonal moisture availability, and dry season wildfires — sound familiar? California's Valley Oak savannahs are considered a type of Mediterranean savannah, since we typically experience the mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers that define a Mediterranean climate.

Savannahs tend to be productive ecosystems, since the grass they produce provides food to grazers large and small, from mice and rabbits to deer and elk. Humans have helped maintain savannahs for thousands of years through the use of small but intentional wildfires, which burn dry grass and shrubby plants but do little long term damage to the larger trees.

NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: editorial@tehachapinews.com.