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More on Biodiversity

From Highlights from A Conservation Blueprint

Santa Cruz County’s unique and diverse natural systems are not only essential to California’s abundant biodiversity, they are also the foundation of our community’s well-being. The natural world supports our physical, emotional, and economic health by providing a wealth of goods and services. The Conservation Blueprint evaluated terrestrial and aquatic habitats and species of the county, habitat connectivity, and climate change issues.

Natural WealthCreating a Conservation Lands Network
A key objective of the Conservation Blueprint is to identify a network of conservation lands that could safeguard the county’s biodiversity. The Conservation Lands Network (CLN) is designed to protect rare and unique vegetation and the species that depend on them, as well as to include significant portions of more widespread vegetation types. The accompanying chart shows the 17 vegetation types that cover these natural lands and the extent to which they are currently protected.

The Conservation Lands Network includes public and private lands, including ranch and timber lands where biological conservation values are protected. The CLN would include 177,000 acres of land, 80,000 acres of which is already protected and 50,000 acres of which is within the priority multi-benefit areas. A large portion of the currently unprotected land is within working ranches and forests, which can be managed to protect many of the conservation values while remaining productive. The Blueprint sets the following targets for protection based on four categories: globally or locally rare or highly significant, 90%; locally uncommon, 75%; locally common 50%; locally abundant, 33%. See chart on facing page.

Habitat Connectivity
The long-term viability of wide-ranging species like the mountain lion requires linkages between large natural patches of habitat both within the Santa Cruz Mountains and between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the neighboring Diablo and Gabilan ranges. The Blueprint finds that 20% of the county’s habitat has already been fragmented by development, agriculture, and mining. It also notes that rural development in the hills and mountains creates barriers to wildlife movement, including fencing, roads, and the presence of people and dogs. The Blueprint identifies potential linkages between these mountain ranges and recommends detailed steps for making our region’s landscape accessible for wildlife.

Climate Change
By the end of the century the average annual temperature in California is predicted to increase by up to 8 degrees and sea levels may rise by more than 4.5 feet. Santa Cruz County will be hotter and drier, putting still more strain on already overburdened water supplies for people, animals and plants.

The Blueprint recommends a series of strategies to increase the ability of natural systems to function in the face of climate change. The protection of a diverse range of lands can help plants and animals adapt by serving as climate change refuges. Particular attention should be paid to wetlands and north-facing slopes, as well as areas where elevation change provides opportunities for species movement to cooler microclimates.

Download maps:
Conservation Lands Network for Santa Cruz County (pdf, 6.3MB)
Habitat Connectivity (pdf, 5.3MB)

More about the Conservation Blueprint