The Santa Lucia Preserve is located in Monterey County, California near the coastal town of Carmel at the northern terminus of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Big Sur coast. This area lies within the California Central Coast Ecoregion, which, by all accepted measures, is a region of national and global conservation significance due to the richness and rarity of its species and vegetation types, many found nowhere else in the world. It is not only recognized as one of the six most significantly imperiled biodiversity hot spots in the nation, but is also recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot in separate studies conducted by the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International.
This pattern of extreme variety is reflected within the Preserve itself, which contains a dramatic diversity of landforms, species, and natural communities, including a number of regionally endemic and at-risk species and vegetation types. This is a due to its geographic location, and geologic and topographic variation. The property is characterized by a northwest-to-southeast trending valley with numerous steep, deeply-cut canyons running perpendicular to the main valley. The lower elevations and western-most portions of the Preserve are exposed to higher amounts of moisture (including summer fog) and modulated temperatures, due to the proximity of the Pacific Ocean. This creates conditions conducive to vegetation and habitat types such as coastal prairie, coastal scrub, as well as Redwood and Monterey Pine forests. The more eastern and interior portions of the Preserve experience more extreme high and low temperatures and much less summer fog, and are occupied by chaparral, annual grasslands, and oak savanna & woodlands. The property also contains a number of perennial streams lined with willow and cottonwood-dominated riparian forests, as well as wetlands, lakes, and old cattle stockponds, which serve as surrogate vernal pool habitats.