McLaughlin Natural Reserve is one of only a few sites in California that protects unusual serpentine habitats for research and teaching. The McLaughlin Reserve encompasses several geologic formations, two watersheds (Putah and Cache Creeks), and a variety of vegetation that includes oak woodlands, non-serpentine chaparral, serpentine chaparral, and grasslands.
Overlain on this natural diversity is a mosaic of human land-use, yielding grazed and ungrazed grasslands, relatively pristine habitats, and reclaimed mining areas. Surrounding the reserve are 30,000 hectares (75,000 acres) of accessible public land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The Homestake Mining Company has collected baseline data on the site’s geology, soils, hydrology, air and water quality, archaeology, and terrestrial and aquatic ecology; ongoing environmental monitoring adds to the computer database.
The site is visited by university courses in plant ecology, California floristics, geology, and creative writing.
Establishment of the reserve as a field station dedicated to environmental research is part of the long-term reclamation plan for the gold mine.
- Serpentine habitats: Dynamics and succession of serpentine chaparral; the spread of exotic grasses on serpentine.
- Ant studies: Ant specificity to unique isolated habitats; determinants of polymorphism and foraging strategies in ants.
- Host-association effect on herbivory of the Indian paintbrush species.
- Ecological and evolutionary responses to habitat mosaics: integrating across spatial and temporal hierarchies of plant biodiversity