Overview

Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: Restricted to two sites approximately 6.4 km apart on the Monterey Peninsula, coastal Monterey County, California. Suitable habitat for this species is very limited in extent (USFWS 2008).

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Range Description

This species is found in the USA, in the Coast Ranges of central and northwestern California: Mendocino, Sonoma and Monterey Counties. Found in the following localities: 1) SW slope of Huckleberry Hill, Monterey Peninsula; 2) Cypress Point Pine Barrens, near a large water reservoir close to Seventeen Mile Drive; 3) A seaward hill slope near Gibson Creek, well above Point Lobos State Park road; 4) Canyon of Gibson Creek ca. 2 miles E of Point Lobos; 5) Pacific Grove, Monterey peninsula; 6) the "white plains" or "pine barrens" of Mendocino County (sometimes referred to as subsp. pigmaea).
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Historic Range:
U.S.A. (CA)

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Ecology

Habitat

California Montane Chaparral and Woodlands Habitat

This taxon can be found in the California montane chaparral and woodlands, a near coastal ecoregion in Central and Southern California, USA. This ecoregion is disjunctive, with a major element in Southern California and another along the Monterey County coast. The ecoregion encompasses most of the Transverse Range that includes the San Bernardino Mountains; San Gabriel Mountains; portions of the Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains; Topatopa Mountains; San Jacinto Mountains; the Tehachapi, Greenhorn, Piute, and Kiavah Mountains that extend roughly northeast-southwest from the southern Sierra Nevada; and the Santa Lucia Range that parallels the coast southward from Monterey Bay to Morro Bay.

The California montane chaparral and woodland ecoregion consists of a complex mosaic of coastal sage scrub, lower chaparral dominated by chamise, upper chaparral dominated by manzanita, desert chaparral, Piñon-juniper woodland, oak woodlands, closed-cone pine forests, yellow pine forests, sugar pine-white fir forests, lodgepole pine forests, and alpine habitats. The prevalence of drought-adapted scrub species in the flora of this ecoregion helps distinguish it from similar communities in the Sierras and other portions of northern California. Many of the shared Sierra Nevadan species typically are adapted to drier habitats in that ecoregion, Jeffrey Pine (Pinus jeffreyi) being a good example.

Oak species are an important component of many chaparral and forest communities throughout the ecoregion. Canyon Live Oak, Interior Live Oak, Tanbark Oak (not a true Quercus species), Engelmann Oak, Golden-cup Oak, and Scrub Oak are some examples. Mixed-conifer forests are found between 1371 to 2896 meters elevation with various combinations and dominance of incense cedar, sugar pine, and white fir, Jeffrey Pine, Ponderosa Pine, and mountain juniper. Subalpine forests consist of groves of Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis), Lodgepole Pine, and Jeffrey Pine. Very old individual trees are commonly observed in these relict subalpine forests. Within this zone are subalpine wet meadows, talus slope herbaceous communities, krumholz woodlands, and a few small aspen groves.

In addition to these general vegetation patterns, this ecoregion is noted for a variety of ecologic islands, communities with specialized conditions that are widely scattered and isolated and typically harbor endemic and relict species. Examples include two localities of Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuata) on serpentine soils, scattered vernal pools with a number of endemic and relict species, and isolated populations of one of North America’s most diverse cypress floras, including the rare Gowen Cypress (Cupressus goveniana goveniana) restricted to two sites on acidic soils in the northern Santa Lucia Range, Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) found only at two coastal localities near Monterey Bay, and Sargent Cypress (Callitropsis sargentii LR/LC) restricted to serpentine outcrops. Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) is also restricted to three coastal sites near Monterey Bay.

The ecoregion is also home to a few endemic or near-endemic mammalian vertebrates, such as the White-eared Pocket Mouse (Perognathus alticolus EN), a mammal known only to two disjunct mountain ranges in southern California: San Bernardino Mountains in San Bernardino County (ssp. alticolus), and the Tehachapi Mountains, in Kern, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. The near-endemic fossorial Agile Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys agilis) is found in the southern disjunctive unit of the ecoregion, and is known only to the Los Angeles Basin and foothills of San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains in Ventura, Los Angeles, and Riverside counties north to Santa Barbara County and through the southern Sierra Nevada, including Mount Pinos, Tehachapi and San Gabriel mountains, and northern San Fernando Valley. Non-endemic mammals found in the ecoregion include Botta's Pocket Gopher (Thomomys bottae) and Trowbridge's Shrew (Sorex trowbridgii). Some larger vertebrate predators can be found in the ecoregion, including Puma (Puma concolor), Bobcat (Lynx rufus), Coyote (Canis latrans), and Ringtails (Bassariscus astutus).

The ecoregion boasts five endemic and near-endemic amphibians, largely Plethodontid salamanders. Some specific salamander taxa found here are the endemic Tehachapi Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps stebbinsi VU), known from isolated sites in the Caliente Creek drainage, Piute Mountains, and Kern County, California along with scattered populations in the Tehachapi Mountains to Fort Tejon, Kern County; the near-endemic Blackbelly Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps nigriventris); the Monterey Ensatina (Ensatina eschscholtzii); the Channel Islands Slender Salamander (Batrachoseps pacificus), endemic to a narrow range restricted solely on Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel islands; and the Arboreal Salamander (Aneides lugubris), found only in California and Baja California. A newt found here is the Coast Range Newt (Taricha torosa). Anuran taxa in the ecoregion include the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylii NT); the Southern Mountain Yellow-legged Frog (Rana muscosa EN), a California endemic occurring in several disjunctive populations; and the Northern Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora).

The California montane chaparral and woodlands ecoregions contains a number of reptiles such as the Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum), who ranges from Northern California to Baja California. Also found here is the Sagebrush Lizard (Sceloporus graciosus); the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis); the Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata); and the Side-blotched Lizard (Uta stansburiana). The Two-striped Garter Snake (Thamnophis hammondii) is a restricted range reptile found near-coastally from Monterey County, California southward to Baja California.

The California Condor once inhabited much of the ecoregion, with the western Transverse Range acting today as a refuge for some of the last wild populations, after considerable conservation efforts, especially in the Los Padres National Forest. The Heermann's Gull (Larus heermanni NT) is found in coastal areas of the ecoregion.

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Comments: Closed-cone coniferous forest, pygmy forest, and maritime chaparral habitats; may occur in pure stands or in mixed stands with Monterey pines or Bishop pines (Pinus muricata). An understory of chaparral shrubs is often present. Apparently restricted to shallow Cieneba or podzolic soil types with severely reduced nutrient availability, which precludes establishment by other trees. 30 - 300 m.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This variety grows in chaparral, in “pine barrens” [large stands of pines (Pinus spp.)], on sandstone outcrops, on white or yellow sandy slopes and on leached, sometimes sterile sandy “hardpan” which causes the dwarfed individuals (“pigmaea”). In some areas it is a component of closed-cone pine-cypress woodlands.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5

Comments: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counts only 2 occurrences, one at the Del Monte Forest within the Morse Botanical Reserve, and one at Point Lobos State Reserve (USFWS 2002). The California Natural Diversity Database (2008) reports a third occurrence of less than 10 plants on private land < 1 km south of the Del Monte Forest; it appears that USFWS considers these plants part of the Del Monte Forest stand.

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General Ecology

Has adaptations typically associated with frequent fires: Female cones are serotinous (only opening to release seeds when exposed to very high heat or fire) and may be produced on a tree as young as four years. Mass synchronized openings of the serotinous cones during fires are likely a critical part of its natural regeneration process (USFWS 2008).

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: T1 - Critically Imperiled

Reasons: Restricted to a specific soil type in coastal Monterey County, California. Two natural stands are known to exist. Fire exclusion and development are the primary threats. Lack of fire suppresses recruitment to very low levels. The smaller stand is largely protected from direct development, but some proposals for the area in which the larger stand is located propose development within the stand itself, including removal of individuals. Properties immediately surrounding both stands continue to be developed, limiting future management options. Non-native plants are filling in the understories of unburned areas, and erosion from various sources is also a problem.

Environmental Specificity: Very narrow. Specialist or community with key requirements scarce.

Comments: This (sub)species' adaptation to a very specific soil type essentially restricts it to its current distribution on the Monterey coast (USFWS 2008).

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
B2ab(ii,iii,v)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Farjon, A.

Reviewer/s
Thomas, P.

Contributor/s

Justification
This variety meets the B criterion for Endangered due to its limited area of occupancy (AOO) even when calculated with an enlarged grid width of 4 km due to missing map points in the northernmost subpopulation (formerly recognized as subsp. pigmaea). A continuing decline is suspected due to fire exclusion and indirect threats associated with urban developments.

History
  • 2000
    Vulnerable
  • 1998
    Vulnerable
    (Oldfield et al. 1998)
  • 1998
    Vulnerable
  • 1997
    Endangered
    (Walter and Gillett 1998)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Threatened
Date Listed: 08/12/1998
Lead Region:   California/Nevada Region (Region 8) 
Where Listed:


Population detail:

Listing status: T

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Cupressus goveniana goveniana, see its USFWS Species Profile

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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Comments: Estimated stable by USFWS in April 2003. The most recent major loss of individuals was in the early 1980s (before USESA listing), when approximately 840 Del Monte Forest trees were cut to make way for a golf course (USFWS 2008).

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Population

Population
This nominate variety is known from less than 2,000 mature individuals scattered between about 10 subpopulations in 5 localities. It is unlikely that any of these subpopulations contains more than 250 mature individuals. The dwarf form can produce seed cones when only a few decimetres tall, but in very low quantities. Strictly speaking these are also mature individuals and if counted as such could increase these numbers.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Degree of Threat: Very high - high

Comments: Fire exclusion and development are the primary threats. Lack of fire suppresses this (sub)species' recruitment to very low levels; prescribed fire is strongly preferred as the management technique that would promote substainable populations. Properties immediately surrounding both stands continue to be developed, restricting opportunities for management via prescribed burning and also for stand expansion. Furthermore, some proposals for the Del Monte Forest stand area propose development within the stand itself, including removal of individuals. Because of this (sub)species' highly specialized habitat requirements and fire-dependent biology, it is not possible to mitigate such removals. Non-native plants are filling in the understories of unburned stands, further reducing recruitment opportunities; these plants are being controlled, but will likely require ongoing management. Erosion within the stands is also a threat, caused by hiking and mountain biking within the Del Monte Forest and by water flow disruptions from remnants of old, cleared roadways within the Point Lobos stand (USFWS 2008).

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Major Threats

There are threats from development (urbanization, making and maintenance of golf courses, road building), erosion, invasive non-native species and agriculture. Altered fire regimes through fire suppression can favour Pinus spp. and could reduce the fecundity of mature cypress trees, which rely on fire for opening the cones and subsequent release of seeds.

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Management

Biological Research Needs: (1) Effectiveness of various mechanical clearing and controlled burning levels in promoting persistence and genetically diverse recruitment; (2) Genetic studies to inform seed collection for storage; (3) Long-term monitoring of recruitment and population size; (4) Long-term monitoring of ecosystem parameters to ensure that natural processes are able to function (USFWS 2008).

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions

This variety occurs in S.F.B. Morse Botanical Reserve and Point Lobos Reserve (Monterey Co.) and outside reserves along the coast in Mendocino and NW Sonoma Counties. The S.F.B. Morse Botanical Reserve is located within the Gowen Cypress Planning Area in two parcels to the south and east of Congress Road. The S.F.B. Morse Botanical Reserve was established in 1972 to protect the endangered Gowen Cypress (sensu stricto), as well as other species or associations of species found only on the acidic clay-pan soils found in this area. This reserve is adjoined by the 372 acres of the Huckleberry Hill Natural Habitat Area.

This variety is listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and has also been listed as Critically Imperilled on NatureServe database (NatureServe 2012).

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Risks

Stewardship Overview: The preferred management method would be to initiate partial stand replacement via controlled burns in 50- to 70- year cycles or 85-year cycles (more research is required to determine which would be more favorable). Subsequent long-term monitoring should be performed, including genetic analysis to confirm recruitment of a diverse population. Where controlled burning is not possible, mechanical clearing treatments may be used, but the result is expected to be inferior to that obtained with burning (USFWS 2008).

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: In the second edition of the Jepson Manual (Baldwin et al. 2012) what Kartesz (1994 and 1999) treated as Cupressus goveniana ssp. goveniana and C. goveniana ssp. pygmaea are treated as distinct species in the genus Hesperocyparis.

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