The Santa Lucia Conservancy manages its 10,350 acres of fee-owned lands (the "Wildlands") for ecological values, and works with landowners do the same on the 7,650 acres of lands held under conservation easement by the Conservancy (the "Openlands").
Maintaining ecological integrity requires keeping all the "parts", such as plant and animal species, as well as natural communities and the processes that sustain them. The Conservancy's protected lands contain a dramatic diversity of species and natural communities, including a number of that are regionally endemic and at-risk. In order to ensure the strategic conservation of these features, the Conservancy evaluates management needs for biodiversity utilizing the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation, which allows us to systematically identify and prioritize ecological threats, and determine management actions to ameliorate those threats. This approach is a form of adaptive management, which uses the monitoring of key indicators (such as the abundance of a rare species) to determine the effects of management actions (such as prescribed fire or invasive plant eradication) and inform future iterations of the assessment process. The process also allows us to determine gaps in our knowledge and, thus, prioritize topics for applied ecological research. Current management and monitoring projects include:
Grasslands and Oak savannas have been severely impacted by incompatible human uses throughout California. The Conservancy is using prescribed fire, rotational cattle grazing, mechanical clearing, and chemical treatments to maintain and restore these vegetation types on the Santa Lucia Preserve.
The moderate Mediterranean climate on the Santa Lucia Preserve creates conditions that are highly susceptible to invasive non-native weeds. High priority species for control include French broom (Genista monspesulana), sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) , stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens), fuller's teasel (Dipsacus follonum), yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitalis), jubata grass (Cortaderia jubata) and tall fescue (Festuca arundinaceae). Additional priority invasive species include Harding grass (Phalaris aquatica), summer mustard (Herschfeldia incana), black mustard (Brassica nigra) and poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).
Sudden Oak Death (Phytophthora ramorum) is a new forest pathogen that has recently begun impacting the moist forests of coastal California. The Conservancy is working with landowners, state agencies (including CalFire), and scientists to learn about the disease, and to minimize the impacts on the Preserve. More information regarding Sudden Oak Death research on the Santa Lucia Preserve is available on our Ecological Research page.
Several rare plant species, including Pacific Grove clover (Trifolium polyodon), Gairdner's yampah (Perideridia gairdnerii ssp. gairdnerii), and hooked popcorn flower (Plagiobotrys uncinatus) occur on the Preserve, and the Conservancy is monitoring and managing these populations to promote their long-term viability. Additionally, the Conservancy works to find new rare plant populations by searching appropriate habitats on the Preserve.
The California Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma californiense) is listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act and occurs on the Preserve. The Conservancy is working to maintain and restore upland habitats on the Preserve through the use of prescribed fire and cattle grazing.
The Tri-colored Blackbird is a globally imperiled species listed as Endangered by the IUCN Redlist, and occurs almost entirely within California. The Conservancy is collaborating with Audubon California to manage breeding and foraging habitat for this species on the Preserve.
The Conservancy annually monitors grassland vegetation at selected reference locations on the Preserve. This provides before- and after-data to measure the effects of our land management activities on the floristic composition of the Preserve’s grasslands.
In collaboration with Ventana Wildlife Society and Point Reyes Bird Observatory, the Conservancy annually monitors breeding birds in grassland, oak savanna, and riparian habitats utilizing point-count methodologies. The resulting data is uploaded to the California Avian Data Center, providing a safe and permanent data repository that is accessible to the broader ecological research community. In addition, the Conservancy regularly monitors owls, diurnal raptors, and Purple Martin colonies.
The Conservancy annually monitors breeding populations of California Tiger Salamanders and California Red-legged Frogs in stockpond habitats on the Preserve, using aquatic sampling techniques.
In collaboration with the Watershed Institute at California State University - Monterey Bay, the Conservancy annually monitors baseflow in the streams on the Preserve to investigate impacts of local groundwater pumping. This work also provides an indicator of habitat conditions for the Federally Threatened South-Central California Coast Steelhead and has provided research opportunities for a number of graduate students from the Watershed Geology Lab.