Purpose and value of Natural History Research Reserves

Our understanding of environmental problems is limited by the lack of field data collected at relevant spatial and temporal scales.  In the environmental sciences, theoretical and simulation modeling guides and inspires, but ultimately depends on field empiricism.  The missions of research, teaching, and public outreach require research reserves, where long term studies and manipulative experiments can be carried out without disruption.  Research reserves are uniquely important to the University's mission, and are distinct from lands protected for preservation (e.g., by The Nature Conservancy) or public recreation (e.g., by the National Park Service), for at least three reasons.  Research reserves provide:

  1. opportunities to perform controlled manipulations, sometimes over rather large scales, which can be crucial for understanding systems;
  2. security for field instrumentation needed to obtain long term records of environmental change; and
  3. protection from shifting or incompatible management policies that could compromise long term research programs and results. 

Field stations at remote sites can also serve as bases for field research throughout the surrounding region.

Reserves in the University of California Natural Reserve System (NRS) are viewed as outdoor laboratories for research and teaching, and places where natural systems can be analyzed, ecological principles comprehended, and the impacts of people on environments better understood (Ford and Norris 1988).  Reserves consist of relatively undisrupted natural habitats, allowing baseline conditions and changes in these conditions to be assessed.  A basic goal of the NRS is to bring together scientists from many fields and a variety of institutions so that the reserves can serve as both subjects and catalysts for interdisciplinary studies and collaborative research.  Such an approach also benefits students, who are able to participate in studies with leading researchers in settings that emphasize hands-on learning and direct observation. 

As California and the world grow more densely populated and developed by humans, areas supporting natural ecosystems will become scarcer.  Those that persist will become ever more valuable, as our need intensifies for these windows of understanding of how ecosystems functioned under more natural conditions.  These natural areas can also inform, and supply native genetic material for, local ecosystem restoration, when opportunities for restoration arise.

Mission of the UCNRS

The Angelo Coast Range Reserve is one of the 34 sites in the University of California Natural Reserve System (Fig 1.)

The mission of the NRS is to "contribute to the understanding and wise management of the Earth and its natural systems by supporting university-level teaching, research, and public service at protected natural areas throughout California."  This network of reserves is the most complete system of university-directed field stations in the world.  The UCNRS protects natural land areas of significant size that represent and sustain much of the unparalleled diversity of California's biota and ecosystems.



NRS Map of Reserves, image, jpeg Angelo Coast Range Reserve Chickering American River Reserve Hastings Natural History Reservation Jenny Pygmy Forest Reserve Bodega Marine Reserve Eagle Lake Biological Field Station Jepson Prairie Reserve McLaughlin Natural Reserve Quail Ridge Reserve Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve Burns Pinon Ridge Reserve San Joaquin Freshwater Marsh Reserve Stunt Ranch Santa Monica Mountains Reserve Box Springs Reserve Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center Emerson Oaks Reserve James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve Motte Rimrock Reserve Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center Dawson Los Monos Canyon Reserve Elliott Chaparral Reserve Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reserve Scripps Coastal Reserve Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve Coal Oil Natural Reserve Kenneth S. Norris Rancho Marino Reserve Santa Cruz Island Reserve Sedgwick Reserve Valentine Easter Sierra Reserves - Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab (SNARL) Valentine Eastern Sierra Reserves - Valentine Camp Ano Nuevo Island Reserve Younger Lagoon Reserve Fort Ord Natural Reserve Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve
28. Sedgwick Reserve
29. Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory
30. Valentine Camp

31. Año Nuevo Island Reserve
32. Fort Ord Natural Reserve
33. Landels-Hill Big Creek Reserve
34. Younger Lagoon Reserve

NRS reserves (http://nrs.ucop.edu/reserves/nrsmap.html)

The Angelo Coast Range Reserve

Site History

The Angelo Coast Range Reserve is made up of two protected areas.  One is a 1642 ha (4055 acre) tract of forested land, the first, and for many years the largest, preserve of The Nature Conservancy west of the Mississippi, gifted in 1959 by Heath and Margorie Angelo.  The other is the 1416 ha  (3500 acre) watershed of Elder Creek, designated an Environmental Protected Area by the Bureau of Land Management, and joined to the Reserve in 1961 by a Use Agreement with BLM.  The Elder Creek watershed is considered the largest pristine watershed remaining in the state of California and was designated as a “Man and the Biosphere” site by the United Nations Environmental Program in 1964, as part of the California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve. It has been continuously monitored since 1967 by the U.S. Geological Survey as a benchmark for purity of natural waters.

The Reserve has been used by University of California researchers since the 1980s, and was officially transferred to the University of California Natural Reserve System in 1994.

Natural History

The Angelo Coast Range Reserve (Northwest corner: -123.666, 39.763, Southeast corner: -123.571, 39.687) in Mendocino County, California, encompasses diverse aquatic and terrestrial habitats.  With elevations ranging from 378-1290 m, the steep, dissected terrain harbors redwood groves, mixed conifer-deciduous forest, upland Douglas fir and mixed conifer-decidious forests, nine meadows on upland river terraces, and chaparral at higher elevations, particularly along ridgelines.

  Because the Angelo Reserve lies east of Elkhorn Ridge, a high region of the coast range, it is shielded from maritime fog.  Consequently, it has more temperature extremes, drier summers, and more elevationally stratified vegetation than might be expected in a habitat only 12-15 miles east of the Pacific Ocean (Fig XX to show vegetation transect).  Aquatic habitats include a salmon-bearing mainstream river and tributary streams, and seasonal seeps and meadow wetlands. Notable fauna include  the Pacific giant salamander, the Olympic salamanders, river otters, flying squirrels, black bears, the threatened northern spotted owl, lamprey eels (for which the river was named), coho and chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. The reserve protects one of the largest tracts of coastal Douglas fir-Coast Redwood forest remaining in the state of California, and a 5 km stretch of the South Fork of the Eel River designated as a Wild and Scenic River. Protected spawning and rearing habitat for salmonids and other fishes occurs in the mainstem South Fork and in three of its perennial tributaries within the Reserve. Species lists are available for Mosses, Vascular plants, Reptiles, Amphibia, Fish, Birds, Mammals, Fungi and Lichens at the reserve.

Administrative Structure

Today, the Angelo Coast Range Reserve is operated by the University of California Natural Reserve System (NRS) and managed by the California Biodiversity Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

The University of California Natural Reserve System is an intercampus program operated through the Office of the President, Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.  An Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from each campus, meets twice a year to provide broad input on the activities, policies and priorities of the NRS.  Each reserve is assigned to a particular UC campus for day-to-day administration, and is managed by a resident or non-resident reserve manager, with oversight provided by NRS administrative structure and, at most campuses, by a faculty reserve manager with advice from a campus advisory committee.

The Angelo Coast Range Reserve is managed on the Berkeley campus through the California Biodiversity Center (CBC) and the Berkeley Natural History Museums (BNHM). The BNHM is a consortium of campus museums, including the Botanical Garden, Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Essig Museum of Entomology, University/Jepson Herbaria, Museum of Paleontology, and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.  The primary goals of the BNHM include the capture, storage, and dissemination of field data through the use of computerized database systems and facilitation of collaborative research projects across BNHM units and campus field stations. The California Biodiversity Center is an Organized Research Unit of the Berkeley campus.  Its primary goal is to develop and support research synergisms that merge the historical and geographic approaches often used by museum scientists with the experimental and process based approaches of ecologists and earth scientists, to learn about California’s ecosystems, past, present, and future.  The CBC also sponsors a variety of educational and outreach activities.  The CBC and the BNHM are responsible for the administration of five other natural history field stations controlled by the campus

The Resident Manager at the Angelo Coast Range Reserve is Peter Steel, and the Faculty Reserve Manager is Professor Mary Power.  Professor Power is also Director of the California Biodiversity Center.  Dr. John Latto is the Academic Coordinator of the CBC, and assists with programs and management at all of the Natural History Field Stations administered by the Berkeley campus, including the Angelo Reserve.