University researchers mapped the vegetation in the Klamath Mountains

Newswise – This data will have many uses, including understanding how vegetation recovers after fires and how plant communities are affected by a drying and warming climate. In the long term, this project will contribute to the regional understanding of climate change.

“The Klamath Mountains are home to more than 3,500 vascular plant taxa, making it one of the most diverse botanical sites in North America,” says forestry professor Lucy Kerhoulas ('06, Botany, '08, MS Biological Sciences). Kerhoulas is leading the research along with other university faculty, including Rosemary Sheriff, Chair of Geography, Environment and Spatial Analysis, and Eric Jules, Chair of Biological Sciences.

The project aims to document and map the botanical diversity. The resulting maps will be the most comprehensive vegetation maps of the Klamath Mountains, Julie says.

The Klamath Mountains range is huge, covering 19,000 square miles from northern California to southern Oregon. This project is focused on California only; It will conduct 1,600 plant surveys – each in a different location – and collect hundreds of samples over the next three years.

The survey began this summer, and the researchers, who include both graduate and undergraduate students, aim to complete 500 surveys by the end of this year.

As part of these investigations, researchers will visit sites throughout the Klamath, documenting every plant they encounter, with a focus on vascular plants. They will then create a list of all the tree, shrub, grass and sedge species (herbaceous plants that are not grasses). A large part of the plant samples collected by them will be donated University Vascular Plant Herbarium– One of the largest in the California State University system with over 105,000 students.

Documenting the botanically rich region will have many impacts, says project co-leader and ecologist Michael Kaufman ('12, M.B.S.) of the Bigfoot Trail Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the Klamath Mountain's Bigfoot Trail. “Because the Klamath Mountains are home to some of the most biodiverse temperate forests on Earth, it's important to know what's here, how widespread the vegetation is, and whether there are any threats to specific vegetation communities.”

The project is funded by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. It is held in partnership with the California Native Plant Society and the Bigfoot Trail Alliance.

Kaufman's specialty is the Klamath Mountains and its plants. He has traveled the mountains for the past 25 years and knows them inside and out. This allowed him to locate researchers and collect data.

There are many parts of research that are exciting to Kaufman, but the students stand out the most, he says. It is inspiring to work with Cal Poly Humboldt's future botanists and ecologists, re-examining the landscape through their eyes and training the future stewards of the Klamath Mountains.