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Section 263A
Northern California Coast

This section encompasses mountains, hills, valleys, and plains in the northern California Coast Ranges and small parts of the Klamath mountains that are close enough to the Pacific Ocean for the climate to be modified greatly by marine influence.  Summers are characterized by fog, cool temperatures, and higher humidity than that inland.  It is in MLRAs 4, 5, 14, and 15.

Geomorphology.  Parallel ranges, folded, faulted and metamorphosed strata; rounded crests of subequal height.  Coast Ranges Geomorphic province.

Lithology.  Late Mesozoic eugeosynclinal rocks of the Franciscan Formation, and shelf and slope sedimentary rocks.

Soil Taxa.  Alfisols, Inceptisols, Mollisols, Spodosols (Pygmy Forest), Ultisols and Vertisols in combination with isomesic, mesic or thermic soil temperature regimes, and aquic, udic, ustic or xeric (moist end of range) soil moisture regimes.

Vegetation.  Predominant potential natural communities include the Redwood series, Douglas-fir - tanoak series, Oregon white oak series, Purple needlegrass series, Tanoak series and Coast live oak series.

The following series are found throughout the section  and are not restricted to, or extensive in any subsection. Series dominated by exotic plants are not listed under subsections unless they are extensive and stable.

Fauna.  Mammals include Roosevelt elk, black-tailed deer, black bear, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, skunks, marten, fisher and river otter. Birds include eagles, hawks, owls, peregrine falcon, osprey and a variety shorebirds and waterfowl along the coastal part of the section.  Species of concern include marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl.  Streams and rivers are used by anadromous fish.

Elevation.  Sea level to 3,000 feet.

Precipitation.  20 to 120 inches.

Temperature.  40° to 60°F.  Summer daytime temperatures often modified by fog and sea breezes.

Growing Season.  225 to 310 days.

Surface Water Characteristics.  Many slow or relatively slow streams and rivers in alluvial and weak bedrock channels flowing directly to the Pacific Ocean.  Most terminate in tide affected brackish estuaries.

Disturbance Regimes.

Land Use. Composition and successional sequence of some communities (primarily grassland communities) has changed because of plant and animal species introduced between the early 1800’s and early 1900’s related to grazing and forestry.  The southern part of the section, and some of the northern part contains expanding urban areas.

Cultural Ecology.  Humans have been utilizing the area for some 8,000 to 10,000 years, and have been an integral part of north coast ecology for some 2,000 to 3,000 years, thriving on the diversity of habitats from ocean and estuary to forest, and intensively gathering numerous resources.  The variety of Northwest California ethnographic cultures is the most complex in the United States, reflecting diverse prehistoric and historic uses, practices, and human adaptations.  The fur trade was a unique part of northwest coast early history, and later lumbering and agriculture were the main economy.  Contemporary attitudes and beliefs are dichotomized between emphasis on amenity/newcomer and commodity/long-time resident values, but all overlain by a rural lifestyle, even in the trendy Marin headlands north of San Francisco.  The economy is diverse, ranging from San Francisco Bay Area financial and entertainment industries to rural agriculture, forestry and fishing; tourism and recreation are important industries.

Subsections. The Northern California Coast section is divided into 13 subsections.

To obtain information about a particular subsection, click the subsection.

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