Crystal Cove’s Beautiful Coastal Sage Scrub

The sight of scrub brush, the smell of sage, and the sound of gnatcatchers; indicators of quality Coastal Sage Scrub and characteristics of much of the landscape of Crystal Cove.  Coastal Sage Scrub, the primary plant community of Crystal Cove, is a collection of plants which are adapted to the dry conditions they face in Southern California.  These plants can tolerate the stress of drought and rapidly recover from fires, both helpful traits in a Mediterranean ecosystem.  These specific qualities have produced a high number of endemic plants and animals, which are only found in California.  Coastal Sage Scrub also provides sanctuary to animals, like the California gnatcatcher and the Quino Checkerspot, both endangered species which are dependent on healthy coastal sage scrub for survival.

The climate that has helped produce these specific characteristics has also contributed to its decline.  Coastal Sage Scrub is only found along the coast of Central, Southern, and Baja California, where the temperatures are warm and the rainfall is mild.  Due in large part to this favorable climate, these same areas have been heavily developed and it is estimated that only 10-30 percent of the original extent remains.  In Crystal Cove, research efforts have been directed towards studying the Coastal Sage Scrub in Moro Canyon’s backcountry, to protect and maintain areas of the habitat that remain, and that future restoration projects are successful in restoring the area to a pristine condition.

If you would like to get involved with our monitoring projects in our Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystem, join us on one of our monthly butterfly surveys.  On these surveys we walk through much coastal sage scrub, recording the butterflies that are seen.  This data is critical when measuring the success of restoration.  It allows scientists to compare healthy coastal sage scrub to degraded lands.  Also, make sure to visit El Moro Canyon’s backcountry hiking trails to enjoy the beautiful Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystem for yourself.


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