La Jolla Laboratory Replacement Project Coastal Sage Scrub Restoration Project

Southern California coastal sage scrub habitat 

The newly constructed NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center was built in an area that contained coastal sage scrub habitat, which is a rapidly declining vegetation community in the coastal region of southern California. The California gnatcatcher (Polioptila  californica californica), a passerine bird federally listed as threatened, is an obligate species associated with this habitat, and had been observed in this area. To compensate for impacts to this sensitive habitat per guidelines set forth by UCSD's Long Range Development Plan (LRDP), and as required by the California Coastal Commission, coastal sage scrubwas restored within UCSD's Preserve north of the Geisel Library.

Download the Coastal Sage Scrub Restoration PDF

 Restoration_gnatcatcher_Karen Strauss

Californiagnatcatcher (Polioptila californicacalifornica) - Karen Strauss

Restoration_prickly pear_Schaefer

 Pricklypear cactus (Opuntia littoralis)


Removing non-native species

The coastal sage scrub restoration included the removal of all eucalyptus trees in a 3.04-acre area located in the northern most portion of the Preserve on the bluff along the southern edge of Genesee Road. While UCSD's Grove is a historic part of the campus, the eucalyptus trees in it are not native to California. They have been introduced from Australia and can be extremely tenacious and difficult to maintain due to various species of invasive pests that have afflicted several species of eucalyptus in recent years. The dead or dying eucalyptus trees removed for this restoration project were located in a portion of the Grove that was affected by this pest, and needed to be cleared for safety reasons. By creating coastal sage scrub habitat along the outside edge of the Grove, the restoration project effectively expanded and enhanced this sensitive habitat within the UCSD Preserve.

 Restoration_before tree removal_Schaefer

Restoration site before tree removal and restoration: dying and dead trees in the Grove at the edge of high quality coastal sage scrub habitat

Restoration_slope to be revegetated_Schaefer

A slope to be re-vegetated has been stabilized by a natural fiber blanket.

Restoration_cutting access paths_Schaeffer

 Cutting access paths in existing habitat for tree removal

Restoration_temp irrigation_Schaeffer

Temporary irrigation system using reclaimed water


Herbivory cages to protect cactus transplants


An opportunity to restore coastal sage scrub habitat

Habitat restoration included transplanting prickly pear cactus (Opuntia littoralis), and seeding such native plant species as California sagebrush (Artemisia californica), California sunflower (Encelia californica),and monkey flower (Mimulus aurantiacus). Mulch captured from the eucalyptus tree removal process was applied to the recreational trail system surrounding the restoration site to help stem erosion and repair damage from winter rains. Trail users are being informed about the restoration project and habitat sensitivity by signage and fencing, and cactus transplants were caged to protect them from becoming rabbit food. Temporary irrigation using reclaimed water will sustain the plantings during their establishment phase for the first two years of the restoration project. 

The restoration project was implemented in the winter of 2011/2012 and is currently in the first year of a three year post-restoration monitoring and maintenance effort. After project completion and acceptance by the California Coastal Commission, the project will be self-sustaining without irrigation, providing suitable habitat for the California gnatcatcher, and enhanced ecological value for the enjoyment of all UCSD Campus users.

 Restoration_first year post-restoration_Schaeffer

First year post-restoration along the upper bank of the slope toward Genesee Avenue; coastal sage brush (Artemisia californica) and monkey flower (Mimulus auranthicus)

Restoration_first year post resoration ca poppies_Schaefer

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and other native coastal sage scrub plants during the first year post-restoration


Text and photos by Christina Schaefer and Kelsey Stricker, Environmental Science Associates, San Diego CA 92122