Located on part of the former Fort Ord Army Base, Fort Ord Natural Reserve supports excellent examples of maritime chaparral endemic to the Monterey Bay region. This rare habitat and several associated plant and wildlife species depend largely on Fort Ord land for their survival.
Eleven listed plant species reside there (including the federally endangered, state-threatened sand gilia and the federally threatened Monterey spineflower), along with six listed animal species (including the federally endangered Smith’s blue butterfly). The site also supports a mixture of other habitats: coast live oak, coastal scrub, mixed annual grassland, and native perennial grassland.
The reserve was established because of its unique flora and fauna of the Monterey Bay maritime chaparral and as mitigation for the adjacent former UCSC Monterey Bay Education, Science, and Technology Center (MBEST) under the Fort Ord Base Closure Habitat Management Plan (HMP). As part of this plan, the reserve will protect rare habitats and associated special-status species into perpetuity and foster teaching/research opportunities, especially in conservation biology of the HMP species.
Rich habitat diversity, unique biotic communities, and proximity to UCSC and other campuses create valuable teaching opportunities; students use the site for internship programs and independent research on projects that directly support management efforts.
UCSC Fort Ord staff and student researchers study occurrence and phenology of rare native annuals across native and restored habitats on the reserve. UCSC undergraduates and student staff propagate and plant thousands of listed annuals each year on disturbed sections of the reserve. Small disturbed areas are available for other experiments in restoration ecology.
- Ongoing reserve monitoring: Status of Habitat Management Plan-listed species; bird monitoring, small mammal monitoring, herpetology monitoring, coast horned lizards population study, invertebrate identification and DNA barcoding, environmental DNA sampling, and long-term storage
- Conservation biology: Distribution and genetic studies of the black and silver forms of the California legless lizard; survey of coast horned lizards; survey of native ants and invasive Argentine ants; research on the demographics and community ecology of sand gilia, Monterey spineflower, and maritime chaparral shrubs; the role of change in ant biodiversity on seed dispersal; comparative genetic and morphological analysis of different sand gilia populations; and manzanita pathogen studies.