Whittier Narrows Nature Center Visit
Darwin’s observation once stated that populations can produce more individuals than their environment can support (citation). After visiting the Whittier Narrows Nature Center, I agree with this observation. The Whittier Narrows Nature Center is located in south El Monte along the San Gabriel River. The nature center consists of two parts: the Whittier Narrows Nature area and the recreation area next to the nature center. I visited both places. The Whittier Narrows Nature Center consists of 400 acres of riparian woodlands, which is a forested area next to a body of water.
The nature center is a low flood basin that has fertile soils that encourage plant growth by the river. The name of the nature center comes from the ‘narrow’ gap between the Montebello and Puente Hills (http://www.wnnca.org/history/).
During my hike in the Whittier Narrows Nature Center, I met a ranger who was cleaning the trail. He thankfully had time to answer some questions.
I asked him about how often he needed to clean the trail and what environmental issues this area was facing. He told me the biggest issues they faced was not having enough water to support all the plants. The amount of water the nature center is able to use for watering the plants is limited by the drought. Water is an important element in our eco-system as it gives a huge support to all the living species. Plants need water to be able to perform photosynthesis and animals need water to maintain their lives.
With the growing human population, people control the biggest percentage of water that once belonged to nature. During the trip at the Whittier Narrows Nature Center, I saw that there were a lot of living species are gone due to the lack of water. Many plants had died and many animals, especially the birds, lost their habitats. Thus, they are also endangered by this lack of water. The ranger listed many endangered species with the most common species being two birds: the California Gnatcatcher and least Bell’s Vireo. When he first started working in the park, it was very easy to see a least Bell’s Vireo singing on the trees. The two bird species could be found everywhere in the park, but due to the drought and high heat taking away their homes, they are now hard to find. Furthermore, he also pointed out that another issue they faced was human pollution. Since the nature center does get many visitors, the park gets occasionally littered with trash, which was why he was cleaning the trail. The nature center is also near cities as it is in the south El Monte area. This means the nature center may be exposed to air and light pollution.
Protecting the park is a mission for everyone. This park shows us the natural beauty and maintains a home for many endemic species. The park reminds us how we evolved from the past and shows a miniature of how a healthy, balanced ecosystem is maintained throughout centuries. By protecting the biodiversity in the park, the area creates resilient to provide nutrient cycles, such as nitrogen and carbon cycles (Valdez, 3). Maintaining a high biodiversity can also allow the area to have climate regulation and decrease the air and water pollutions. Furthermore, conserve the biodiversity in the park also lets researchers explore and study unknown species. Nevertheless, the park allows people to take a little break from their busy lives (Parsons, 11).
Continuing with my hike, the ranger was also able to give some information about the plants and animals I saw. I saw the California wild grape (Vitis californica), which usually grows along rivers but it is able to endure droughts. The ranger said that the plant does produce grapes that can be eaten by humans. Another plant I saw was the white sage (Salvia apiana). White sage usually grows in coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitats and has many uses in hygiene, medicine, and food. It is especially popular for the honey the bees produce from this plant. I also saw purple sage (Salvia leucophylla). Purple sage also grows in the coastal sage scrub habitat. It is not as popular for its honey but is very popular with the bees. There was also the Juncus – Common Rush (Juncus textilis) which just looked like tall grass. The ranger said it was once used to weave baskets. I also saw the Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia basilaris) which I recognized as a Mexican dish called nopales. However, the ranger said the cactus can also be used medicinally for stomach problems and bites or stings.
The animals I saw had been mostly birds. There was a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor). It lives in wooded areas near water and its diet consists mostly of flies. Another bird I saw that also has a diet of flies was the Vermillion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus). This bird can be found in many different areas but prefers to live in areas near water. On the ground, I saw a Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus). The ranger said it forages for food on the ground. The Spotted Towhee typically lives in the chaparral habitat. In one of the ponds, I saw a Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). The ranger said the males and females look different with females being brown all over and males having a white face and bluish bill. The one I saw was a female. Another bird I saw was an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). It primarily eats fish so it lives near areas with water. I noticed that it has large talons that are most likely useful for catching fish.