The Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are home to hundreds of native species of plants and animals, both common and rare. In fact, scientists have identified this region as one of the world’s biodiversity “hot spots”, meaning this is one of the few areas in the world with such a high concentration of different species. Made up primarily of Chaparral and Coastal Sage Scrub ecosystems, the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks are symbolic of what Southern California looked like before large populations of people moved in. It is no secret that the growth of urban areas surrounding the lands have reduced the available habitat for native plants and animals, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on them… that’s where stewardship comes in.
On October 9, 2017, a fire broke out in the area around Gypsum Canyon Road near the 91 Freeway. It quickly spread, burning thousands of acres within the northern portion of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, including all of Weir and Blind Canyons, and portions of Fremont Canyon. While much of the wildlife in the area was quick to recover, loss of habitat remains an issue. The fire burned through numerous patches of prickly pear cactus, key habitat for the endangered Cactus Wren. Oak woodlands were also impacted, although many of the larger more mature oak trees were able to survive. However, recovery efforts are underway, and there is strong reason to believe that with time the area will recover.
“Most of the oak trees started showing signs of new growth soon after the fire, and much of the ground vegetation is back,” said Irvine Ranch Conservancy Project Manager Nathan Gregory, Ph. D. “It could take a few years for the shrub coverage to return to its status before the fire, and decades for oak trees to grow.”
Generally found in well-developed canyons with a consistent water supply, these evergreen Oak trees are the cornerstone of Oak woodland habitats found throughout the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Their roots grow deep in order to tap into underground water sources, but their proximity to the coast allows them to take advantage of coastal fog as well. Their wide and dense canopy provides shade and habitat while their acorns provide a food source for many different animals that need healthy Oak woodland to survive.
However, a recent influx of Gold Spotted Oak Borers has put the health of these Oak woodlands in danger. The Gold Spotted Oak Borer is a kind of beetle whose larvae feed below the protective bark layer of the tree, damaging the vital tissues needed to transmit water and nutrients throughout the plant. Extensive work is being done throughout the Landmarks to prevent the spread of this pest and recover lands already impacted. For more information please visit: https://letsgooutsi.de/2xTzmTH.
The health and protection of our Coast Live Oak population is essential to preserving the delicate balance of the many interconnected ecosystems that make up the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
Amongst the most commonly seen wildlife on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, the Mule Deer gets its name from the large ‘mule-like’ ears that help them listen for danger. Generally living up to 11 years in the wild, they feed primarily on high quality grasses and shrubs, preferring to eat at dawn and dusk. They typically flee at the first sign of danger, relying on their speed, stealth, and agility to outrun predators such as Mountain Lions and Coyotes. However, if cornered they will defend themselves, so please be cautious and respect their space if you come across one in the wild.
Full grown males, called bucks, grow a new set of antlers every year so they can spar with other bucks for the right to mate with females, called does. Each doe can have up to three babies, called fawns, although most only give birth to one or two offspring at a time.
Mule Deer are not considered endangered, but they are still an important part of our local ecosystem and worthy of our protection. Next time you're out on the land, keep an eye out for these beautiful mammals!
Register for a stewardship program to help fight invasive species and follow the Landmarks’ social media on June 26 to watch butterflies thrive on the local lands.
Summer is officially here! Native plants continue to bloom on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks in the summer sun and butterflies can be spotted nearby. As native plant life thrives, so does the local butterfly community. Nature enthusiasts can discover how native plants help the butterfly community prosper during the first-ever Butterfly Social Media Takeover on the Landmarks’ social media channels on June 26.
Welcome to the Irvine Ranch Conservancy "News from the Field" blog. These articles are written by Conservancy staff about activities and projects in and near the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.