Central Coast

Central Coast

The Central Coast bioregion is an area of transition between the bioregions to the north and south. Ridge tops are generally less than 1,200 m (3,800 ft) in elevation, but a few peaks rise up to 1,800 m (5,700 ft). The region supports a mixture of the vegetation types found to the north and south in a more complex mosaic including coastal prairie, north and south coastal scrub, redwood forest (in isolated locations), mixed evergreen forest, chaparral, oak woodland, and some mixed conifer forest in the lower montane belt of the Santa Lucia Range (Borchert and Davis 2006).

Native Americans used fire to extensively control vegetation in the bioregion to promote the production of plants for food and fiber and for ceremonial purposes (Cuthrell et al. 2012). In the 1790’s the combination of Spanish, Mexican, and Euro-American  settlers in the region eliminated Native uses of fire in the bioregion. Burning in chaparral areas increased during this period to increase rangeland of introduced livestock species. Today, areas inside the bioregion are heavily urbanized. From 1945-2005, the number of total ignitions in and near the Bay Area dramatically increased, but fire size decreased due to effective suppression practices (Keeley 2005). Though uncommon, lightning ignitions occur with greater frequency in the Interior Ranges than in the mountains near the coast.


Borchert, M.I., F.W. Davis. 2006. Central Coast Bioregion. Pages 299-318. In: J.W. Van Wagtendonk, N.G. Sugihara, S.L. Stephens, A.E. Thode, K.E. Shaffer, J.A. Fites-Kaufman, editors. Fire in California’s Ecosystems. University of California Press, Oakland, California, USA.

Cuthrell, R.Q., C.Striplen, M. Hylkema, K.G. Lightfoot. 2012. Pages 153-172 in: T.K. Jones and K.E. Perr, editors. A land of fire: anthropogenic burning on the Central Coast of California. Contemporary Issues in California Archaeology. Left Coast Press, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Keeley, J.E. 2005. Fire history of San Francisco East Bay region and implications for landscape patterns. International Journal of Wildland Fire 14: 285-296.