Science and Research

Laguna Ecology & Biodiversity

The Laguna de Santa Rosa watershed is host to a wide variety of plant communities. The watershed’s diverse geology and wide climate range have together contributed toward the creation of an environment that supports many different types of plants, and an abundance of wildlife. Many species are in decline and are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, pollution, climate change and the introduction of non-native invasive species. Understanding the interplay between functional ecosystems and anthropogenic influences requires an investigation of the patterns of physical and biological forces at work in the watershed.  The Biodiversity Action Plan for Sonoma County describes threats to biodiversity and conservation actions to preserve it. 

A detailed look at historic conditions and dynamics of the Laguna ecosystem and evaluating current conditions to establish a baseline for comparison of future conditions is essential to assessing the effects of human impacts in the context of yet unknown natural ecosystem variations. We are developing a program to establish a Laguna Biodiversity Baseline, and are collaborating with agency researchers and university graduate students to investigate specific ecosystem components and dynamics.

Laguna Trails Plan - Bird Point Count Monitoring
An ongoing Laguna bird point count survey along the proposed Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District trail system assesses the impact of trail construction and use on birds in the Laguna. The survey was started in 2004 by PRBO Conservation Science and we have continued the study for several subsequent years. Baseline data will ensure that this impact assessment is as scientifically sound as possible.

Laguna Riparian Bird Study
A long-term volunteer-based bird monitoring program assesses the diversity and abundance of the resident and migrating birds in the Laguna Middle Reach between Highway 12 and Occidental Road, where the Laguna Foundation is restoring Riparian zones and oak woodlands (see Middle Reach Restoration for more info).

Since November 2006 our volunteers continually survey predetermined monitoring sites via the area search method, a standardized method using a specified science-based protocol. This assures that we consistently gather high quality data. The bird monitoring program will establish a good baseline of the bird community in this ecosystem and will help us to evaluate restoration success in the Laguna Middle Reach restoration area in the future.