Why is This Important?
San Mateo County is home to a diverse mix of natural habitats, including beach and intertidal zones, coastal sage scrub, chaparral, oak woodlands—even redwood forests. Each of these ecosystems supports its own variety of plants and animals, some of which are endangered or threatened. The availability of and access to these habitats provide a number of benefits to county residents, including tourism, recreation, and increased property values.
What is a Sustainable State?
In a sustainable state ecosystems are healthy and land use decisions include habitat protection.
How Are We Doing?
Threatened and Endangered Species
San Mateo County is home to 25 endangered species and another 15 threatened species. A number of these species have “critical habitat” located within the county.
· The coho salmon (endangered) and Central California Coastal steelhead (threatened) spawn in small streams in the county before migrating to the ocean for most of their adult lives. Pollution, decreased water quality, dams, and poor stream conditions have greatly diminished the prevalence of both fish in the county.
· The California red-legged frog has been lost from 70 percent of its historical area, mainly from loss of habitat to coastal development.
The San Mateo County Department of Agriculture and nonprofits like the California Native Plant Society maintain active programs to intercept and eradicate invasive and exotic species in the county. These species can cause extensive damage to native habitats and crops.
Exotic pest interceptions through the Pest Exclusion Program in San Mateo County totaled 534 in 2009. The Department of Agriculture also has five locations where it eliminates skeleton weed, and two locations for eradication of purple loosestrife. Both are damaging invasive species.
The Audubon Society’s Christmas bird count tracks bird populations at two locations in San Mateo County: Año Nuevo and Crystal Springs. Continuous bird count data exist through 1980. Three species are indicators of the overall ecosystem health:
• The common raven because its population is closely tied to human presence and disturbance.
• The acorn woodpecker because it is a cavity nester that depends on oak habitats for survival.
• The California quail because it is a ground-nesting species vulnerable to human disturbance.
Although there can be great variation in the annual counts due to weather and other factors, since 1986 the number of common raven has grown steadily while the number of acorn woodpecker and California quail counted has decreased slightly.