The Cape Region’s Driest Spot
The San Lucan Xeric Scrub ecoregion is crawling with spiders and reptiles. Most of the reptiles that live in the Cape Region of the Baja California peninsula are found within this ecoregion, as are almost a third of the recorded species of springtails and spiders. From spiny-tailed iguanas to desert wood rats, an amazing diversity of species have adapted to life in this hot and dry part of the planet.
The Cape Region of the Baja California peninsula shows many characteristics of an island. In fact, it originated ten million years ago as an isolated portion of land and joined with the desert-like peninsula millions of years ago. The many years of isolation led to the evolution of a number of unique species. The region is a mix of rugged mountains, deep valleys and canyons, and plains. On the plateaus surrounding Sierra de la Laguna, precipitation is less than 16 inches (400 mm) per year, favoring dry-adapted plants such as Opuntia, sour pitaya, hedgehog cacti, yucca, and the columnar cacti, Pachycereus.
Pocket gophers emerge from their elaborate burrows to gather grasses and seeds. Peninsular mule deer seek shade among elephant or quiebracha trees while hawks and prairie falcons scan the ground in search of mice, desert wood rats, and gophers. At certain times the ground is covered with tiny black springtails, a group of wingless insects that help decompose dead plants and fungi. Cape spiny-tailed iguanas and Sierra de la Laguna whiptail lizards warm themselves on rocks and hunt spiders, beetles, and ants for food. Butterflies such as colorful sulfurs or fast skippers can be abundant here after rains. Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers call from atop cactus columns.
Cause for Concern
The Cape Region of the Baja California peninsula includes three extremely fragile and valuable ecoregions: Sierra de la Laguna Dry Forests, Sierra de la Laguna Pine-Oak Forests, and San Lucan Xeric Scrub. While many parts of these ecoregions remain intact, scientists are concerned that cattle grazing and other human activities could put the entire region in jeopardy. The xeric scrub is the area most threatened by clearing, and it is heavily impacted by grazing in many areas. The Gulf islands of Partida, Espiritu Santo, and Cerralvo are protected areas. Some lower portions of the Sierra de La Laguna Biosphere Reserve conserve some of the mainland scrub.
For more information on this ecoregion, go to the World Wildlife Fund Scientific Report.All text by World Wildlife Fund © 2001