A “Schoolroom of Nature”

The Biotic Communities at the Desert Oasis

A Biotic community is a distinct grouping of plants and animals and the interaction among them.

Ecology is the study of living things in relation to each other and to their environment.  These environments, or homes in which particular plants and animals have become adapted to live, comprise their biotic community.

An Ecosystem is all the plants and animals in a given area along with their physical environment.

All living things are tied to their environment by a multitude of invisible strands.  These strands are found in the various physical conditions; soil, air, water and light, and in the relationships; competition, cooperation, and neutrality, between species living together alongside one another.

Many interactions in the world of living things help create its physical environment.  Without the organic matter provided by living organisms, there could be no soil, only inert mineral particles.  The soil that develops is important in determining the kinds of plants that can grow in it.  These plants, in turn, support specific animals.  The very atmosphere of this planet, carbon dioxide and oxygen, both necessary for plant and animal life, is produced by plants and animals.

The world is comprised of biomes determined by the predominant vegetation in any given region.  Each biome possesses its characteristic combination of plants and animals; of temperature and soil and rainfall.  A biome can consist of a belt of coniferous forest across northern America, a tundra in Alaska, or a semi-arid high desert found here in the Desert Oasis Nature Park.

There are four Biome Communities here in the Nature Park:

Desert Community; Riparian Community; Aquatic Community,
and Avian Community

The Desert Community

Coyote on the Oasis

The semi-arid landscape receives its water from precipitation and surface run off.  The best way to understand the desert biome is by examining the various communities within it.  A great variety of desert vegetation is found within the park and occurs naturally.  The dominant animal community is of the insect variety – the ant.  Numerous colonies of ants reside in the desert and since they nest underground, their presence is only detected by the ant hills they build.  Latest ant census-takers report they are too numerous to count!  Larger animals visit the park on occasion.  Groups of Coyotes have been seen often and one sighting of a Bobcat has been reported.

The Riparian Community

The word riparian is from the Latin word “ripa” meaning water’s edge.  Riparian areas are defined as including “vegetation, habitats, or ecosystems that are associated with bodies of water.”     Riparian ecosystems are dominated by plants that have a high demand for water.  Here at the Oasis, deciduous trees and herbaceous plants are most noticeable.  When created, the East Lakes had no riparian characteristics.  But over many years, what now grows here was attracted by the Oasis water.  This area is important as it provides shady and moist habitat which is conducive to plant and animal diversity.

The Aquatic Community

The aquatic community includes all the plants and animals living in or on the perennial waters of the East Lakes.  Although they are not easily seen, a great variety of fish swim beneath the waters.  None of them are natural, of course, since the source of water is not natural.  None of them have swum here from nearby streams.  All have been released into the waters by unknown hands.  Many are of the Koi or Carp families.  Many are Goldfish.  Some tiny “worker fish” have been released and their job is to help control the mosquito population as they feed on eggs and larvae.  On the surface of the lakes, a wide variety of waterfowl can be observed daily.  The Canada Goose are common as are Mallards.  They are often residents of the Oasis.  Occasionally, Blue Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons come fishing.  But many species of waterfowl appear seasonally or visit the lakes during migration.  Coots, Common Mergansers, Pied-billed Grebes, Ruddy Duck, Ring Necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Wood Duck, American Widgeon, Gadwall, and numerous others have been reported.

The Avian Community

Above it all, soars the one community that is not “earth-bound.”  A wide variety of birds may be observed throughout the vegetative areas of the park depending on the time of day and season of the year.  Hummingbirds come and go during their migrations.  Some extraordinary visitors during the winter of 2020 were a small group of American White Pelicans.  In addition to those found on the shoreline – Great Blue Heron, Black-Crowned Night Heron and Snowy Egret – treetops, shrubs and grasses play host to other visitors.  Belted Kingfisher, Great Horned Owl, Osprey, Killdeer. Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Swainson’s Hawk, Black Phoebe, Red-Winged Blackbird and Yellow-headed Blackbird have all been observed above and around the Oasis.  The Avian Community attracts some special two-legged guests to the park with their familiar binoculars and notebooks.

Perhaps one of the true wonders of the Desert Oasis Nature Park is found in the fact that no two days are the same in the park.  The scene changes constantly within and between all the biotic communities.