Elliott Chaparral Reserve

Elliott Chaparral
Elliott Chaparral Reserve / Photo by Christopher Woodcock

Formerly part of the Camp Elliott Military Reservation, the Elliott Chaparral Reserve encomprises a diverse mixture of natural coastal and desert ecosystem that is becoming increasingly rare with rapid suburban growth in the San Diego region. The reserve encompasses a narrow, steep-sided ridge of Kearny Mesa, bounded north and south by broad, flat-bottomed valleys and associated arroyos.

The rolling topography is covered with an unusually wide variety of south coastal chaparral, much of it a nearly pure stand of greenwood, intermixed with elements of coastal sage scrub. Forty-five vascular plant species have been identified on the reserve, several of which have a relatively restricted distribution, such as ash spike moss (Selaginella cinerascens), bushrue (Cneoridium dumosum), and mission manzanita (Xylococcus bicolor).

The soils, formed on an Eocene conglomerate, are thin, pebbly, and leached. As a result, the chaparral plants, particularly chamise, are more stunted and open than in most other Southern California locations. Research and teaching opportunities extend beyond reserve boundaries onto adjacent military open lands featuring rare vernal pools on clay hard-pan soils.

Teaching Opportunities

Large expanses of near-pristine habitats serve as outdoor classrooms for teaching at all levels; UC San Diego students in ecology and other sciences take field trips to the site.

Habitat Restoration

Some areas altered by development or exotic species are being restored to native habitat; a cooperative-research study examines irrigation and mulching methods to restore native chaparral while discouraging increases in invasive Argentine ant populations.

Selected Research

Isabelle Kay
Natural Reserve System
Applied Physics and Math Annex
Rooms 2802 and 2808
9500 Gilman Drive
UC San Diego
La Jolla, CA 92093-0116
Elliott Chaparral Reserve website

San Diego County, 16 km (10 mi.) northeast of San Diego campus; adjacent to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Trailer for staging, research, and short-stay accommodations for up to four; storage container; wireless internet access; weather station offers real-time data online.

The reserve bibliography includes citations of journal articles, books, theses, art, and other works published about or based on activities conducted at the reserve.

Plant List
Reserve-based publications since 1995; herbarium (on campus); species lists for birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and vascular plants.

Reserve manager and academic coordinator on San Diego campus; no personnel on site.

74 hectares (183 acres)

230 to 290 m (760 to 950 ft.)

36 cm (14 in.) per year

13.2 – 22.8 ºC (55.8 – 73 ºF)
mean: 18 ºC (64 ºF)
Dendra Weather Data