Channel Islands National Park is widely recognized for its stunning landscapes, amazing ecological diversity, and large number of endemic species (plants and animals that aren't found anywhere else in the world). The islands' Mediterranean climate, characterized by cool, wet winters, dry, warm summers, and abundant sea fog, dictates the fortunes of their inhabitants. Despite having similar overall climate, each island contains a unique set of plant and animal communities depending on what species were able to colonize each island, their human histories, as well as differences in microclimates, geology, and soils.
The park's habitats are like a patchwork quilt laid over their geologic and earthen landscapes. Sweeping stands of coastal scrub and chaparral, mixed in with grasslands, provide food and shelter to numerous creatures including the Island Loggerhead Shrike and island fox. Shady woodlands are home to Spotted Towhees and Island Scrub Jays. Water, essential to all life, and especially precious in an arid environment like the Channel Islands, springs up through ephemeral vernal pools and ribbon-like riparian corridors that thread through the landscape.
But the plants and animals you see on the Channel Islands now may be quite different than what once lived here. The vegetation on every island is in the process of recovering from grazing, farming, military use, and the introduction of exotic species. The paleontological record also shows that there were species that once lived on the islands like the pygmy mammoth and the giant deer mouse, which are now extinct.
The National Park Service and its partners have undertaken a number of research and monitoring efforts to learn more about the park's terrestrial resources. The Inventory & Monitoring Program has a number of on-going projects, including surveys of native and non-native plants, and monitoring to understand how landscape patterns are changing over time. The U.S. Geological Survey has also been working with the park on vegetation, landbirds and small mammal monitoring and trend analysis.
Did You Know?
The only reptile found on Santa Barbara Island is the endemic and threatened island night lizard. These lizards can live up to 20 years or more, but once established in a territory generally remain within a 3-meter radius their entire life.