Southern Orange County: Conservation priorities for a biodiversity hotspot
provided by Conservation Biology Institute
new report summarizes available scientific information establishing the crucial role that Southern Orange County could play in efforts to conserve biodiversity at both global and regional scales. The report outlines a conservation framework for the area, using principles of conservation planning to delineate four core biological resource units. These four resource units must be conserved essentially intact, without further internal fragmentation by development, to continue supporting key species and ecosystem processes. We present this information in support of the Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) program for the Southern Orange County NCCP subregion.
South-coastal California is a biodiversity hotspot of global importance. Hotspots are those areas harboring the greatest concentrations of living species, especially those species found nowhere else on Earth (endemics). Together, 25 global hotspots identified by leading conservation scientists support more than 60 percent of the Earth's total species diversity, on only 1.44 percent of its surface. Concentrating conservation efforts in these relatively small areas therefore gains the greatest biodiversity value from limited conservation funds.
Much of Southern California's unique biodiversity is concentrated in the foothills and terraces along the Pacific coast, from Orange County to the Mexican border. Having thus far escaped the urban sprawl that has reduced and fragmented natural habitats throughout southern California, southern Orange County supports a last best representation of this globally unique ecosystem. In concert with adjacent federal lands (Cleveland National Forest and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton), this large undeveloped block of natural habitat supports the broadest remaining array of natural environmental gradients and ecosystem processes in the south-coastal landscape. Southern Orange County and adjacent public lands support core populations of many imperiled wildlife species. The area's outstanding biological attributes include the following:
Based on these biological facts, principles of conservation biology and planning, and guidance provided by the Southern Orange County NCCP Science Advisors, we mapped those areas most critical to retaining these resource values in the region. Four core biological resource areas (Arroyo Trabuco, Chiquita, San Juan, and San Mateo) must be conserved essentially intact, without further internal fragmentation, significant reduction in size, or degradation by development, to retain these resources and the ecosystem processes they depend upon. Conserving private lands within these four areas would consolidate a large ecosystem reserve in conjunction with adjacent existing protected areas, such as the San Mateo Canyon Wilderness Area, Cleveland National Forest, Caspers Wilderness Park, Rancho Mission Viejo Conservancy, and Audubon Starr Ranch Sanctuary.
The findings and recommendations of this report should help guide NCCP planning for the Southern Orange County NCCP subregion, which is the last best hope to conserve a large, ecologically intact representation of the globally unique coastal foothills and terraces ecosystem. This hope can be achieved through the NCCP process as long as society agrees that these resource values are irreplaceable.
View the entire study at: www.consbio.org/cbi/what/orange.htm.