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Impact of Climate Change on California Landscapes

Impact of Climate Change on California Landscapes is Focus of Public Lecture at UC Riverside

Richard Minnich will discuss forest fires in Southern California; climate and vegetation change; global warming

(April 9, 2010)

Richard Minnich is a professor of geography in the Department of Earth Sciences at UC Riverside.

Richard Minnich is a professor of geography in the Department of Earth Sciences at UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Noted fire ecologist Richard Minnich will give a free, public lecture at the University of California, Riverside on April 22 that will address the impact climate change has had on California landscapes.

Titled “Climate’s Control of California Landscapes,” the hour-long lecture will begin at 7 p.m. in Room 302, Highlander Union Building, formerly the Commons. Doors open at 6:15 p.m. Seating is open.

In his talk, Minnich, a professor of geography in UC Riverside’s Department of Earth Sciences, will discuss climate and vegetation change over the past 50 million years, with emphasis on California since the last ice age; global warming over the past 100 years; and how Sierra Nevada glaciers and California’s vegetation have been affected by recent global warming.

“I also will offer some comments on the recent siege of large fires in Southern California,” he said. “And I will address the great tree die-off due to extreme drought in 2002.”

Research in Minnich’s lab focuses on the ecology of the Mediterranean ecosystem, including chaparral and forests in Southern California and northern Baja California, Mexico.

Specifically, he studies the fire and structure of mountain forests in Southern California under fire suppression compared against those in Baja California without suppression. He has extensively studied the patterns of forest die-off from the 2002 drought and how global warming influenced these patterns.

Minnich’s interest in weather and climate began in childhood. In the Department of Earth Sciences, he expanded his interest to
paleoclimate over geologic time.

“Paleoclimate and geologic processes such as plate tectonics help me understand such topics as how California – my primary research area – has acquired its modern vegetation; the nature of glaciation in the Sierra Nevada; when did our deserts support large lakes; and when did summer drought develop,” he said.

Minnich obtained his doctoral degree from UCLA in 1978. He is the author or coauthor of 64 refereed papers and book chapters, as well as two books, including California’s Fading Wildflowers: Lost Legacy and Biological Invasions (University of California Publications, 2008).

His talk is being hosted by UCR’s College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences and the Science Circle, a group of university and community members committed to advancing science at UCR and in Inland Southern California.

The talk is the second of five lectures scheduled this year. The lecture series, titled “Global Climate Change: Causes, Impacts, Solutions,” aims to boost the public's awareness and understanding of climate change and of how science works.

More information about the lecture series can be obtained by visiting, calling (951) 827-6555 or emailing Carol Lerner.

Teachers interested in receiving professional development credit for attending the lecture series must make arrangements in advance with University Extension.

For information about UCR parking, please see “Related Links” below.

Climate change symposium:

Graduate students from the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences will give short presentations on climate related research at UCR’s first annual symposium on climate change.

Titled “The Science of Climate Change: Perspectives, Trends, and Projections,” the symposium will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Saturday, April 24, in Engineering II, Room 138.

The symposium, which is free of charge, aims to give graduate students working in the multiple disciplines of climate science an opportunity to present their research to a public audience and discuss the relevant social implications.

The Richard Moscarello Family Foundation, and UCR’s Department of Earth Sciences, Center for Conservation Biology and College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences are sponsoring the symposium.

More information at:

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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