Drought, Fire, and Flood in Mediterranean Climates

Drought is the word on every Californian’s mind this year. After a winter with nary a raindrop in sight, which follows two previous years of scarce snowfall, reservoir levels are disturbingly low and communities concerned about keeping taps flowing. Now spring storms are triggering community evacuations due to the risk of mudslides.

Extremely wet and extremely dry conditions aren’t new to the Golden State. Like the rest of the world’s five Mediterranean-climate regions, California has long swung between times of drought and heightened fire risk, and times of catastrophic flooding.

Such harsh conditions can be devastating to human communities, but it’s business as usual for a Mediterranean-climate ecosystem. A new video, Mediterranean-Climate Ecosystems: Drought, Fire, and Flood, explains how plants native to California, central Chile, the Cape Region, South and Southwestern Australia, and the Mediterranean Basin are not only built to survive drought, but may rely on it to regenerate natural communities.

The video is the third in a five-part series about Mediterranean-climate ecosystems. The series is being produced by the University of California Natural Reserve System in conjunction with University of California Television.

The first program, Lands of Two Seasons, gives an overview of the similarities between Mediterranean-climate regions. Shaping Life: The Geology of Mediterranean-Climate Ecosystems, explains how the stamp of earth’s history still affects native plant evolution. Oceans and Mediterranean Climate explains how geography, the oceans, and the atmosphere produce the unique dry summers and cool winters characteristic of each region. A subsequent program will showcase the array of fascinating species that makes each area a biodiversity hotspot.