Home to more than 1000 plants species, as well as hundreds of animal species, the Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area is a unique and special habitat. The Area conserves one of the largest areas of the Mediterranean ecosystem on the planet, including 26 distinct natural communities. These include seaside tide pools, salt marshes, coastal deserts, woodlands, savannas and more. These communities provide homes to nearly 50 threatened or endangered animal and plant species, highlighting the importance of this conservation area. The mountain range itself spans 46 miles in length and 8 miles in width, creating a substantial geographic feature. The highest peak of the Area, Sandstone Peak, towers 3,111 feet above sea level.
With such an impressive and important ecosystem, it is no surprise that environmental changes are having an impact on the Area. The Park is surrounded by urban and agricultural lands, leading to habitat loss for much of the wildlife. Invasive non-native plant and animal species have also had an effect on the habitat, diverting scarce resources away from native inhabitants. Temperature changes resulting from climate change also have an impact on the Park, with sensitive species unable to adapt to increasing temperatures.
The National Park and its partners work to study and prepare for these changes, as well as reduce their own impact on the environment, for example constructing a net zero visitor center, the first in the National Park Service. Other efforts include partnering with the UCLA La Kretz Center for California Conservation to monitor the park's creeks and springs. With so many outside factors, from climate change to air quality, to invasive species threatening the ecosystem, the Park must enlist help to continue to safeguard the area. This requires educating visitors on the area and its threats.
Education is a key to ensuring future generations appreciate and protect these special areas. The Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area accomplishes this goal in many ways. A participant in the "Parks as Classrooms" program, the park provides free field trips to local schools, and includes curriculum based activities to further the learning.
The Park also provides teacher training programs and participates in the Teacher-Ranger program, which enable teachers to work with rangers during the summer in National Parks, creating curriculum and teaching children about the world around them. For kids who want to get involved in the parks, the Junior Ranger program enables them to interact more with the National Parks they visit, collecting badges, pins, and exploring parks around the country.
Things to Do in California: Santa Monica Mountains - Photo: Foap.com/Fotolia
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