Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Environmental Sciences and Management


Natural Resources Management


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Richard Cobb

Advisor Department

Natural Resources Management

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


There is invaluable genetic information in native Monterey pine forests; having unadulterated genetic information is critical for the pine industry as well as conserving native trees in native stands. The Monterey pine forest and its understory are incredibly sensitive and precious ecological systems. Maintaining healthy remnant forests, including understory vegetation, is important for local biodiversity. In 2020, the Monterey pine was listed as an endangered species candidate, yet so little has been published about Monterey pine in California, with outdated reports and a lack of information about the forest floor. Monterey pine is endemic to only three locations on the West Coast of North America, one of which is located in Cambria, CA. The Monterey pine forest understory of the West Fiscalini Ranch Preserve (FFRP) in Cambria, San Luis Obispo was targeted to establish a baseline vegetation survey of the understory location, composition, abundance and diversity. Since around 2010, FFRP has been growing and planting thousands of Monterey pine and a few oak seedlings to increase the forest’s extent. To date, the forest’s range has increased by approximately twenty-five percent. Yet the understory of the forest has not been targeted for restoration efforts along with the overstory, leaving the forest floor in a state that may be depauperate. The focus of this research project is to specifically target the understory of the Monterey pine, creating an inventory of the native understory. The research intends to preserve the current habitat with management implementation for future comprehensive revegetation efforts. Ensuring the broad range of forest characteristics that affect understory growth were surveyed, systematic sampling was utilized to target every portion of the Preserve. Data collection took place from June 13 – 25, 2021. a total of thirty-eight, 1/10th acre fixed-radius plots were used for sampling. All plots were distanced 330ft from each other in a grid-like formation. A total of seventy-three understory species were identified, of which only nineteen non-native plants were found between the thirty-eight plots. The majority of the understory comprised of native California species while non-native species showed little presence. The most abundant and varietal understory grew under concentrated amounts of Monterey pine while the understory on the coastal bluff was comprised of only mixed grasses. While documenting a baseline understory vegetation study, this survey will be a source for future understory comparisons, establishing criteria for successful regeneration and revegetation practices.