The six habitat systems for which the California Central Coast Joint Venture have identified in its strategic planning effort offer points of entry into prioritization of conservation action. While these systems are interconnected, with actions taken in one influencing another, highlighting these spaces of need helps the C3JV and its partners to identify critical gaps, integrate existing actors, and discover the C3JV niche. Explore each of the six conservation targets in more detail below.
No terrestrial habitat in the C3JV region hosts greater vertebrate species richness than oak woodlands, alone supporting more than 330 species, including as many as 110 breeding birds. With the addition of hardwood rangeland and grassland components archetypal of the Oak and Prairie landscapes of the Central Coast, vertebrate species richness exceeds 450 species. This diversity, at least in part, is attributable to the habitat heterogeneity and productivity in oak and grassland systems, where the production of acorns drives significant avian species richness, while forb and grassland endemics characteristic of the Mediterranean hardwood rangelands support diverse species assemblages driven by dynamic disturbance such as fire. As a significant component of the California Floristic Province, diversity in the C3JV is augmented by endemism, exemplified by the occurrence of six of the seven California endemic oak species, among a total of fifteen oak species present on the Central Coast.
Oak and Prairie community types.
Though composing a small fraction of the C3JV Region, riparian and freshwater wetland systems of the Central Coast can be characterized as perhaps the most important habitat for landbirds relative to their extent in the JV region.
Riparian habitats occur on the margins of freshwater features, embodying the transition zone between riverine, lacustrine and upland ecosystems. Highly productive, riparian systems play an outsized role on the landscape, particularly in semi-arid landscapes that characterize much of the C3JV region.
Freshwater wetlands include a diverse array of landscape features including rivers and streams, lakes (including natural and artificial), vernal pools, swamps, ponds, sloughs, and freshwater marshes. Importantly, coastal estuaries, lagoons, brackish and saltwater marshes are included in the Coastal and Marine Conservation Target. Major waterways include the Salinas, Santa Ynez, Pajaro, San Benito, Nacimiento and Santa Maria rivers, while hundreds of smaller perennial and thousands of intermittent streams further comprise the surface hydrology of the region. Perennial streams are typical to the coastal slopes, draining into the Pacific, while interior and eastern drainages are more commonly intermittent.