Sonoma County is a globally significant “hotspot” for biodiversity. The Mediterranean climate supports an amazing array of species and ecosystems. Redwood forests, coastal prairies, oak savannahs, rivers, estuaries and beaches provide habitat and refuge for birds,
mammals, amphibians, insects and more.
Sonoma County Regional Park’s Natural Resource Program protects, restores and stewards these world class resources. Our goals are to:
1. Ensure that the parks contribute to the ecological function of natural systems throughout the county.
2. Use the parks to inform and inspire visitors about nature and the link between environmental health and personal wellness.
Sonoma County Regional Parks has an ongoing program to restore and steward our natural resources. Examples include:
- Invasive Species
- Climate Change
Because Sonoma County’s grasslands are adapted to disturbance from fire and large herds of animals, they quickly lose their vitality without active burning or grazing.
We work with local livestock producers to graze in ways that help reduce invasive species, improve carbon sequestration, support groundwater recharge and benefit native wildlife.
All of Sonoma County’s forests and grasslands have enjoyed thousands of years of regular burning. Our challenge in today’s built environment is to manage increasingly dense vegetation due to the exclusion of fire.
We work to mow and graze grasslands on our park boundaries to provide fuel breaks. We also work to thin unnatural build-up of shade-tolerant trees like Douglass Fir in some areas. Currently we are working on shaded fuel breaks in Hood Mountain and Shiloh.
There are 195 invasive plant species in the county making up 8% of the total vegetative cover. We engage our staff, and many volunteer groups, in an effort to control the most problematic weeds.
In many cases these species were introduced as ornamental, but just because they are pretty, doesn’t mean they belong. Species such as Acacia, Eucalyptus, Scotch Broom and European Dune Grass quickly overwhelm native vegetation and reduce habitat values for wildlife.
Sonoma County has over 2200 native plant species, 22 of which are endangered. Several plants are “endemic” meaning they only occur here. We partner with the California Native Plant Society to locate rare and threatened populations and protect them from invasive.
Sonoma County Regional Parks stewards several
populations of threatened and endangered species. We monitor species such as the California
Red-Legged Frog, and adapt our management to protect and recover the species.
In order to better understand all of the species that depend
upon our parks, we are partnering with the California Academy of Sciences. Together we are hosting Bioblitz events,
inviting visitors to post observations to INaturalist, and hosting teams of
expert scientists to inventory parks.
Finally, we partner with other conservation groups to
understand and promote wildlife connectivity throughout the county.
Parks are the first and best line of defense against climate
change. Our more urban parks cool and clean the air, improve and modify
local wind circulations, regulate precipitation and mitigate the impact of
urban heat islands.
Both urban and wildland parks act as refuges for
biodiversity, supporting birds, insects, fish, amphibians, mammals, plants and
fungus that are the very foundation of our biotic system. Parks also
provide connectivity for these species to migrate and adapt to variable
Finally, parks play a key role in interpreting climate
change to residents and visitors, raising awareness and shifting behaviors.
At Sonoma County Regional Parks, we believe our parks are an
integral part of the solution to climate change.