30100596367_aac0674730_o.jpg

Southern California Montane Forests Project

A Climate-Informed Conservation Strategy

Project Background

Southern California’s montane forests are unique and fundamental to the region.

Montane forests (forests >5,000 ft elevation) are restricted to "sky islands" of mountain habitat found in the Peninsular and Transverse Ranges of Southern California, with most of the montane forest area found in the San Jacinto, San Bernardino, and San Gabriel Mountains and extending to smaller areas on mountains further north and south. As in the Sierra Nevada, southern California montane forests are dominated by a mix of conifers (mostly pines, firs, and incense cedar) and hardwood (mostly oak) species.

revSoCal_forests_map.png

Map depicting extent of hardwood (light green) and coniferous forest (dark green) in southern California in relation to National Forest boundaries.

​Montane forests protect the upper watersheds of all of the region's major rivers and provide important ecosystem services, including carbon sequestration, soil conservation, erosion and sedimentation reduction, plant and wildlife habitat and migration corridors, shading and cooling of surface waters, recreational opportunities, and aesthetic and spiritual connections. These watersheds also provide about 40% of the water used for human, agricultural, and industrial purposes in Southern California.

42890135791_45328a72be_k.jpg
Carbon
Sequestration
30100596367_aac0674730_o.jpg
Erosion & Sedimentation
Reduction
42907765381_d180d5815e_k.jpg
Shading & Cooling of
Surface Waters
42308284722_b18c94e246_k.jpg
Aesthetic & Spiritual
Connections
48822301572_1bf24533c5_c.jpg
Biodiversity &
Habitat Conservation
45639612791_4398dd9784_k.jpg
Plant/Wildlife Habitat &
Migration Corridors
33405030968_971a6a215c_c.jpg
Recreational
Opportunities
48587546036_6044a34a0e_c.jpg
Watershed
Protection

These forests are under threat from a suite of rapidly intensifying stressors and disturbances, including many that have strong climate connections.

The region is characterized by high habitat diversity, strong ecological and climatic gradients, and a suite of active processes such as wildfires, earthquakes, mountain uplift, floods, and debris flows. In addition, the region supports a large and growing human population (25 million people, nearly 8% of the US total) which poses a threat to one of the country’s most biodiverse regions, affecting plants and animal populations, their habitats, and the ecosystem services they provide. Sensitive, threatened, and endangered state and federal species number in the hundreds. Specific threats include the most rapid climate warming in the US; one of the most variable precipitation regimes in the US; persistent, long-term droughts; the highest ozone pollution levels in the nation; increasingly large and severe wildfires; massive levels of habitat loss due to urban and suburban expansion; and an expanding list of damaging invasive species.

james-day-5YWf-5hyZcw-unsplash.jpg
Rapid
Warming
24776283150_5fb8ccfffa_k.jpg
Variable
Precipitation Regimes
P1090187.jpg
Persistent,
Long-Term Droughts
Ozone
Pollution
P2040011.JPG
Increasingly Large
& Severe Wildfires
28208721467_d77018d357_k.jpg
Habitat
Loss
psw-2014-104.jpg
Invasive
Species

Since the turn of the century, the status of montane forests in southern California has markedly declined. Climate warming has accelerated; ozone pollution has continued to exceed national standards; two major drought periods and associated bark beetle outbreaks have killed tens-of-millions of trees; large and severe wildfires have burned large areas of forest; and new invasive species are posing new threats (e.g. the Gold-Spotted Oak Borer).

Overall, this project looks to overcome the challenges of managing sustainable montane forests in southern California by creating a coordinated strategic conservation vision and action plan shared across agencies and stakeholders.

Project Partners and Sponsors

Climate Science Alliance logos Final-01.
1200px-Logo_of_the_United_States_Forest_
SWCASC-logo (2).png
iemm_logo.png
SDSU-horz-3-Color-blk-text.png