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Introduction to Earth, Soil, and Land in California

Introduction to Earth, Soil, and Land in California

David Carle
Phyllis M. Faber
Bruce M. Pavlik
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Introduction to Earth, Soil, and Land in California
    Book Description:

    Following his acclaimed guides to air, fire, and water, David Carle now offers a fascinating exploration of one more primary element of the natural world—the land beneath our feet. From earthworms and earthquakes to Earth Day, this concise, engaging guide is a multifaceted primer on the literal foundation of California’s environment. Carle tells how soil ecosystems function, discusses what lives in the soil, and examines various soil types. He then turns to the relationship between humans and the land, and investigates the various uses and abuses that land in California endures: large scale agriculture, mining, and development, as well as fires, floods, and erosion. The guide also details the history of land use in the state, making it an essential resource for understanding our total reliance on soil, the marvelous substrate that is the basis of life. • Covers the entire state, including California’s wildlands, farmland, cities, and landfills • Assesses California’s ecological footprint on planet Earth • Discusses many different life forms found in soil, including bacteria, fungi, insects, and mammals • Features 92 color photographs and 18 maps A book in the Californians and Their Environment subseries, dedicated to understanding human influences on the state's ecology and natural resources

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94732-0
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xix)

    When it rained, earthworms would mysteriously appear on the sidewalks. The first seven years of my life were spent in southern California, on a street with sidewalks and rows of houses, each with a small yard. Because rain was limited to a few winter months, those waterlogged worms were rarely seen. Their emergence always came as a surprise. In those early years, before the invention of so many electronic toys, we spent lots of time outdoors closely communing with dirt. We dug in the bare patches of our yards with kid-size shovels and buckets, making roads for toy trucks and...

    (pp. 1-69)

    Soil is more than “dirt,” and land is far more than “real estate.” The distinctions lie with the organisms that teem in the earth beneath our feet and the processes that transform that earth into living soil.

    The ground physically supports us, our structures, and everything else on land, but soil is life’s foundation in many other ways. Soil sustains everything alive by producing food and by exchanging water vapor and oxygen and nitrogen gases with the atmosphere. When an organism dies, decomposers in the earth recycle the body, and the products of this decomposition enable new life to emerge....

    (pp. 71-95)

    Within the boundaries of what is now the state of California, Indians once lived in the highest population density found in North America. From 80 to 100 languages were spoken by approximately 300,000 California Indians. The native Californians were “home bodies,” specializing in detailed knowledge of their local homelands. Anthropologist Theodora Kroeber saw the California Indians as “true provincials” whose defining trait was a preference for “a small world intimately and minutely known”(Kroeber, 1976 [1961], 23). Land ownership was not a feature of those cultures, although a group might claim harvest rights at specific oak trees or fishing rights at...

    (pp. 97-145)

    More than half of California’s acreage is considered wildland, land that has not succumbed to urbanization or become farmland. The living soil performs its essential functions in most forested land, rangeland, and wilderness tracts. Those processes are left to work naturally unless wildland soils have been eroded or destabilized by human activities. Where timber is harvested or mining occurs, land managers may have to act to restore or minimize damage to soils. Erosion from dirt roads and off-road vehicle tracks through wildlands is the major source of sediment runoff into the waters of the Sierra Nevada and Coast Ranges, which...

    (pp. 147-175)

    Food does not simply appear on store shelves. Agricultural production, our source of food and fiber, requires healthy soils and the lion’s share of the state’s developed water supply. The state’s farm products reach far beyond California; 55 percent of the nation’s produce is grown here. Agricultural lands also provide open space that has qualities different from those of wildlands, but also a much different feel compared with urban and suburban development. By giving sufficient attention to soil health, farms can participate in carbon sequestration efforts that help address the global climate change crisis.

    California agriculture generates about $39 billion...

  9. WALKING SOFTLY: California’s Footprint on the Earth
    (pp. 177-192)

    Californians today generate 93 million tons of waste each year, averaging six pounds per person each day. Waste disposal historically has involved shoving garbage “over the side,” into handy ravines that became “dumps.” Burnable wastes were incinerated, a practice that had to be restricted in California after World War II because of air quality concerns. Back in 1873, when Los Angeles had only 6,000 residents, the city’s first garbage and dead animal plot was established. Up in San Francisco, wastes (along with scuttled ships!) became part of the landfill content along the waterfront, pushing land further out into the bay,...

    (pp. 193-196)
    (pp. 197-204)
    (pp. 205-208)
    (pp. 209-210)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 211-226)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 227-231)