A two-lane blacktop climbs to the cemetery above the quaint seaside town of Cambria, California. A sheltering ridgeline of conifers, now brown, runs to the south. Behind the organic food and handmade gift shops are fragile tree corpses, some toppled.
Dwarf mistletoe memorializes the shadowed limbs. The defining Monterey Pines are dying.
Monterey Pine, with its preference for coastal ridge habitat, depends on moisture. That moisture arrives
in the form of the ocean fog and storms across the main street. Those infusions of wetness enable this species to cling to ridges and steep slopes,
colonizing poor soil. In a signal of climate change, the Pacific is not offering enough moisture to sustain these most visible Monterey Pines.
Pinus radiata survives in only three locations in coastal California. A large
percentage of the individual trees colonize Cambria. There, the species comprises an extensive forest visible from Route 1.
Within the shadowed folds of slopes, such as the north slope along the cemetery road, the Monterey Pine resists the California drought. It sends up bushy saplings within the shelter of the coast live oaks, which live longer than the pines and build up rich soil for them to germinate in.