Native Plant Community Monitoring

Cluster of golden club cacti (Bergerocactus emoryi) growing among lower shrubs
Locally rare golden club cacti (Bergerocactus emoryi) and native shrubs in Cabrillo National Monument


Why We Care

Plant communities are both constituents of and drivers of biodiversity. Loss of specific plant species or plant communities can impact insect, amphibian, reptile, avian, and mammalian species diversity. Several plant communities, such as chaparral, coastal sage scrub and riparian habitats, within the parks in the Mediterranean Coast Network form the foundation of these ecosystems. Many of these communities face threats from urban development, invasive plant species, and changes in climate.

For example, increased fire frequencies in the Santa Monica Mountains and active and prolonged fire suppression on the Point Loma peninsula are resulting in significant changes in plant communities. On the Channel Islands National Park, threats to the endemic plant species communities unique to the islands can alter plant population and community structure and even cause the extinction. Maintaining healthy native plant communities requires in-depth understanding of the dynamics affecting species composition and structure.

How We Monitor

At the Santa Monica Mountains and Point Loma peninsula, vegetation monitoring focuses on three community groups - chaparral, coastal sage scrub and riparian habitat.

  • Implementation will be based on the collection of field data, analysis by park or network staff, or academic cooperators, and the gathering and analysis of existing data.
  • Each community group will have its own sampling technique.

At the Channel Islands, long-term monitoring of vegetation has been on-going for over 20 years.

  • A total of 183 permanent transects have been established on five islands and are monitored annually.
  • Species are recorded every 30 cm along a 30 meter transect line.
Two biologists standing on a mountain far above the ocean, one looking at species along a transect, and the other filling out a data sheet
Monitoring native plants along a transect in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.


Our Goals

  • Determine long-term changes in distribution and abundance of vegetation communities.
  • Determine temporal changes over short and long time scales in species composition and abundance in vegetation communities.
Line graph showing the abundance of exotic annuals and perennials and native annuals and perennials
Long-term data from Santa Rosa Island provide an historic perspective invaluable for natural resource management.

Why It Matters for Park Managers

  • Detecting changes in species composition can help guide future land management decisions as well as assess the effects of those decisions.
  • Data from monitoring efforts reveal effects of large-scale changes worldwide such as global climate change.
  • By determining the relative health and composition of plant communities and comparing them with known habitat preferences of certain wildlife species, park staff can better manage those communities to ensure the long-term viability of wildlife species in the Mediterranean Coast ecosystem.

For More Information

Download 1-2 page PDFs about the Mediterannean Coast Network's monitoring programs.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 3545. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

The Mediterranean Coast Network documents its findings in reports published in the NPS Natural Resource Publication Series.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 1509. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Protocols describe in detail the procedures used to collect, manage, analyze and report monitoring data. They follow strict guidelines for content and format, and are reviewed and revised by subject-matter experts in each field.

Source: Data Store Saved Search 1521. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.


John Tiszler (Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area)

Adam Taylor (Cabrillo National Monument)

Dirk Rodriguez (Channel Islands National Park)

Last updated: December 6, 2018