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.
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.
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.
- Abiotic factors control invasion by ants at the community scale.
- The effects of floral predation on the pollination biology and reproductive success of Yucca whipplei.
- Ecological assessment of ground obligate beetle diversity in western San Diego County.
- Elliott Chaparral Reserve before 2003 fire