Natural processes shape the land, create soil and topsoil, influence the water supply, and help determine the plants and animals that live in each natural community. Some natural processes act on large scales and affect more than one natural community at a time.
In This Community
Important natural processes in the Chestnut Oak / Mountain Laurel Forest include
- occasional fire
- exposure to sun, wind, and storms
- processes that create extreme dryness in the soils
- canopy gap regeneration
In the Broader Landscape
In Rock Creek Park, two natural communities that have dry, acidic soil, and can survive (or even depend on) occasional fire are the Chestnut Oak / Mountain Laurel Forest and the Mixed Oak / Heath Forest. These two natural communities are grouped into a larger unit that ecologist refer to as the Dry Oak - Pine Forest Ecological System. An ecological system is a group of several natural communities that share many of the same natural processes and aspects of physical setting. By extension, they may also share many of the same plant and animal species. For example, these two natural communities both contain chestnut oaks, which thrive in dry soils and can survive fires.
No fires have occurred in Rock Creek Park in decades, but in the past, fires set by lightning and humans burned high and dry areas in the park, including areas now occupied by these two natural communities. Many of the plant species in these communities have built-in strategies for surviving occasional fires. Ecobit: Fire: Rising From the Ashes