Professor’s New Book Provides Insights into Climate Change

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: 01-16-2015

Sarah Langford
Public Affairs
530-898-4260
Kristina Schierenbeck, Professor
Department of Biology
530-898-6099

A new book by California State University, Chico biology professor Kristina Schierenbeck on the evolution of the Golden State contains implications for responding to climate change.

cover of phylogeography californiaIn “Phylogeography of California,” published by UC Press in August 2014, Schierenbeck tells the story of how California’s unique location and geography has helped the state develop into one of 25 biological hot spots worldwide.

She begins about 1 billion years ago and explains how the landscape formed and how organisms evolved on the changing landscape. Over time, she writes, the area’s relative isolation—surrounded by mountain ranges, deserts and the Pacific Ocean—coupled with its mild climate and topographical diversity allowed a great variety of species to thrive here.

Today, California is home to 4,800 of the 19,000 species native to the United States. Of those, about 30 percent are found only in the Golden State. In terms of species, the state is home to half of the nation’s mammals and a tenth of its fish.

But pressure from human development and a changing global climate continue to threaten the future of those species, she said.

“I wrote the book for two reasons,” said Schierenbeck, who teaches courses in evolution and plant diversity. “First, I wanted to understand myself as a biological evolutionist. And I’m extremely concerned about biodiversity, so the book contains recommendations for California.”

She identifies several regions needing protection, including the Tehachapi Pass, a major conduit for organisms between the Sierra Nevada and Coast ranges; the Central Coast, home to the greatest diversity and the greatest pressure from humans; and the Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion, where water movement and storage issues abound.

Schierenbeck’s book has been reviewed by several prominent scientists, including Missouri Botanical Garden President Emeritus Peter Raven.

"This is a novel and compelling treatment of a whole new body of information that has not been reviewed in this way before,” wrote Raven. “While it informs scholars in the fields of geography and biology about the origins of the very diverse and wonderful set of organisms found in [California]… it could certainly be used in the classroom as well.”

“Phylogeography of California” is available in the CSU, Chico bookstore and online at UC Press. Schierenbeck can be followed on Twitter at @botanyrules.

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