The Coast and Ocean

The ocean supports life around the globe – it influences climate, weather and water cycles, and provides food and livelihoods for people worldwide. Although the ocean is vast, humans can play a major role in its health, no matter where they live.

The Monterey Bay is a marine sanctuary that hosts a diversity of life in a variety of interconnected habitats, from tidepools to kelp forests to underwater canyons. At least 36 different species of marine mammals pass through or reside in Monterey Bay. Just like mammals that live on land, they breathe air and must have adaptations to survive the cold ocean habitat.

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Redwood Forest

Enormous Trees, With Few Neighbors

Redwood forests have existed all over the world for millions of years, but as the global climate has changed, so has their range. In the U.S. these forests now only occupy a coastal belt from Central California into Oregon. Redwood trees have adaptations for capturing moisture directly from the air, and occur in wet canyons and other wind-protected locations cooled by summer fog. The large redwood trees create a cool, densely shaded environment and deep organic litter on the forest floor. Plants and animals that live in these forests are adapted to a dark, damp environment.

The nearby Big Basin Redwoods State Park was California’s first state park, created in 1902. Why might the redwoods and redwood forests have needed protection at that time?

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Resilient and Diverse 

Derived from chaparro, given by Spanish colonists describing its shrubby nature, chaparral ecosystems are composed of a variety of evergreen shrubs. Chaparral plants are often adapted to drought and fire, and respond well to periodic disturbance. 

Do you know of ways that plants are adapted to wildfire?

Locally, chaparral can be found on sunny slopes all across the Santa Cruz mountains. There are maritime chaparral and mixed chaparral, distinguished by dominant plants, elevation, and exposure to fog. 

A unique chaparral habitat found only in Santa Cruz County, the sandhills are home to several rare and endangered plants and animals. Found only on soil formed by ancient sea beds, close to half of their range has been lost to mining and development. 

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Open and Useful Land

A wide plain of grass and flowers provide critical space for grazing animals, and an open area for hunting predators, such as hawks and coyotes. In grasslands, fast-growing grasses thrive where frequent natural fire and little water keep shrubs and trees from taking over. 

California grasslands are a threatened habitat, and over the last two hundred years have been converted into agriculture, and fragmented with roads and other development. 

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Urban Wildland Interface

Our Animal Neighbors

Whether our homes are in woodlands, farms, or cities, other animals live all around us! Some animals are very adaptable, and are able to survive or even thrive near humans. What kinds of wild animals do you see everyday? How do they make a living as a neighbor to humans?

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Layers of Life

A tangle of grasses and shrubs carpet the woodland floor, with dappled light filtering through the branches above. Studying a woodland means looking closely high and low, and using every sense to explore. 

“Woodland” includes several different plant communities. Local examples include mixed-evergreen forest and oak woodlands. They are multi-layered habitats distinguished by a mix of trees, shrubs, annual grasses and flowers that grow to different heights, providing food and shelter for many animals.

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An Ecosystem Powerhouse

Wide and flat, with plants that slow the flow of water that settles down into thick mud, wetlands connect land and water. Wetlands filter the water that flows through them, prevent flooding and erosion, and recharge aquifers. They are crucial habitats that support biodiversity and benefit human communities, but many wetlands have been drained for agriculture and urban development.

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