section is the interior part of the northern California Coast Ranges mountains,
north of the Carquinez Straight. Marine air modifies winter and summer
temperatures, but the section is inland from the coast far enough that
oceanic effects are greatly diminished. The northern part is in MLRA
5 and the southern part in MLRAs 14 and 15.
Northern California Coast Ranges
Geomorphology. Parallel ranges, folded, faulted and metamorphosed
strata; rounded crests of subequal height. Coast Ranges Geomorphic
Lithology. Late Mesozoic eugeosynclinal rocks of the Franciscan
Formation, Mesozic ultramafic rocks, and Cenozoic volcanic rocks.
Soil Taxa. Alfisols, Entisols, Inceptisols and Mollisols in combination
with frigid, mesic or thermic soil temperature regimes and a xeric soil
Vegetation. Predominant potential natural communities include
the Douglas-fir - tanoak series, Blue oak series, Oregon white oak series,
Chamise series, Purple needlegrass series, Mixed conifer series and White
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.
Series dominated by exotic plants: Cheatgrass series, Kentucky
bluegrass series and Tamarisk series.
Fauna. Mammals include black-tailed deer, black bear, mountain
lion, coyote, bobcat and ringtail. Roosevelt elk, marten and fisher
occur in the northern part of the section. Tule elk and mule deer
occur in the southern part. Birds include eagles, hawks, owls, herons
and osprey. Species of concern include marbled murrelet and northern
spotted owl in the northern part.
Series that can occur in all subsections, but are not extensive:
Bulrush series, Bulrush - cattail series, California oatgrass, Cattail
series, Creeping ryegrass series, Duckweed series, Idaho fescue series,
Mosquito fern series, Nodding needlegrass series, One-sided bluegrass series,
Pondweeds with floating leaves series, Pondweeds with submerged leaves
series, Quillwort series, Sedge series, Spikerush series, Tufted hairgrass
series and Yellow pond-lily series.
Series restricted to riparian settings: Arroyo willow series,
Black cottonwood series, Black willow series, Fremont cottonwood series,
Mixed willow series, Mulefat series, Narrowleaf willow series, Pacific
willow series, Red willow series and White alder series.
Disturbance series of short-lived vegetation: Blue blossom series,
Coyote bush series, Deerbrush series, Eastwood manzanita series and Wedgeleaf
Elevation. 300 to 8100 feet.
Precipitation. 25 to 120 inches.
Temperature. 35° to 60° F.
Growing Season. 80 - 250 days.
Surface Water Characteristics. Many rapid or moderately
rapid rivers and streams in deeply incised canyons with weak bedrock channels
flowing westerly to the Pacific Ocean.
Fire: Historic occurrence has changed from frequent, low, moderate
and high intensity surface fires to infrequent, high intensity ground or
stand replacing fires.
Land Use. Composition and successional sequence of some communities
has changed because of plant and animal species introduced between the
mid 1800’s and early 1900’s related to mining, grazing, forestry and recreational
Seismic Activity: Seismically active area with strong shaking
and ground rupture.
Climate: Wide fluctuations in precipitation and temperature
for periods of years result in significant or catastrophic changes in biological
Cultural Ecology. Humans have been utilizing the area for
about 10,000 years; the Northern Coast Ranges are the type location for
the early, Borax Lake, Paleoindian component. Humans have been an
integral part of Coast Range ecology for some 2,000 to 3,000 years.
The diversity of Northwest California ethnographic cultures is the most
complex in the United States, reflecting diverse prehistoric and historic
uses, practices, and human adaptations. Contemporary attitudes and
beliefs are dichotomized between emphasis on amenity/newcomer and commodity/long-time
resident values, with all overlain by a rural lifestyle. The economy
is relatively diverse - government employment, the timber industry, recreation,
Subsections. The Northern California Coast Ranges section
is divided into 6 subsections.
obtain information about a particular subsection, click the subsection.