A vernal pool is a temporary wetland that fills with water during the rainy season and dries out in the spring. It remains dry for six to eight months awaiting the next winter rains. The plants and animals that are adapted to survive these annual extremes of flood and drought create a changing mosaic of life throughout the three phases of a vernal pool: wet, flowering and dry.
Although most vernal pool animals are small, their complex food webs sustain many larger species of birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles. Most of the critters in vernal pools are native to California and many survive only in vernal pools. We know little about them and less than half have been named.
Over 200 plant species grow in vernal pools and the surrounding prairie. Half of these are rarely found outside this unique habitat. A single pool typically supports only 15 to 20 species, in an unpredictable array of combinations. In that way, vernal pools are a lot like snowflakes – botanically speaking, no two are alike.
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