Cal Poly Humboldt Launches Ambitious Project to Map Klamath Mountains’ Botanical Diversity

Cal Poly Humboldt students and faculty are embarking on a comprehensive project to map the rich vegetation of the Klamath Mountains in Northern California, spanning 19,000 square miles. Led by Forestry Professor Lucy Kerhoulas, Geography Chair Rosemary Sherriff, and Biological Sciences Chair Erik Jules, the project’s goal is to create the most detailed botanical maps of this diverse region.

The Klamath Mountains are renowned for their botanical diversity, home to over 3,500 vascular plant species, making it one of North America’s most diverse botanical regions. This project aims to document and map this diversity, providing valuable insights into vegetation regeneration after wildfires and the impact of a warming and drying climate.

Over the next three years, the project will conduct 1,600 vegetation surveys at various locations within California’s Klamath Mountains. Surveying began this summer, and the team, comprising both graduate and undergraduate students, is on track to complete 500 surveys by year-end.

During these surveys, researchers will meticulously document plant species, focusing on vascular plants, including trees, shrubs, grasses, and forbs. Many of the collected plant samples will be added to the University’s Vascular Plant Herbarium, one of the largest in the California State University system, housing over 105,000 specimens.

The project’s co-lead, ecologist Michael Kauffmann of the Bigfoot Trail Alliance, emphasized the importance of documenting this biodiverse region. “Because the Klamath Mountains hold one of the most biodiverse temperate forests on Earth, it’s important to know what is here, how expansive vegetation stands are, and if any threats are encroaching within particular vegetation communities.”

Funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the project is conducted in collaboration with the California Native Plant Society and the Bigfoot Trail Alliance. Michael Kauffmann, with his deep knowledge of the Klamath Mountains, has guided researchers to collect vital data in this ecologically significant region.

Kauffmann expressed particular enthusiasm for working with the students, stating, “It’s inspiring to work with up-and-coming botanists and ecologists from Cal Poly Humboldt, relearning the landscape through their eyes, and training them to be the future stewards of the Klamath Mountains.”

This ambitious mapping project promises to enhance our understanding of the Klamath Mountains’ botanical diversity and contribute valuable data for climate change research and conservation efforts.

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