Restoring the great cloud forests of Santa Rosa Island

Alexandria Warneke & Keith Lombardo, authors
Michael Ready, photographer

Dramatic black and white image of a sun star viewed through twisting, lichen-covered branches of an oak tree.
Click the image to view the complete visual essay appearing in Volume 39, Number 2 of Parks Stewardship Forum, 2023.
Lush green moss and lichen coat the tip of a branch.

Drip. Drip. Drop. Drip.

A natural symphony condenses from the blanket of fog above. As water collects on the lichen-laden branches of the island oaks and pines, it falls and supports the unique ecosystem below. Santa Rosa Island, off the coast of southern California, is one of the few places in the world where these “cloud forests” can be found. Unfortunately, in the 1800s, several disturbances—from ranching to resource exploration—left the island denuded of critical shrubs and grasses. Without the presence of these foundational species, the land quickly eroded, which threatened the sensitive cloud forest ecosystem. In the late 1980s, Channel Islands National Park gained stewardship of the island and worked tirelessly alongside the US Geological Survey (USGS), whose science informs management decisions, to eliminate introduced grazers from the island and restore its landscape. While much of the island flourished, recovery for the cloud forests remained stagnant. This is the story of what has happened since the endeavor began to restore the Great Cloud Forests of Santa Rosa Island.

This is an excerpt from a visual essay published in Volume 39, Number 2 of Parks Stewardship Forum, 2023. View the full story >>

Channel Islands National Park

Last updated: June 20, 2023