South Coast MapThe South Coast Bioregion -- An Overview

The South Coast Bioregion is uniquely California -- an area of starkly contrasting landscapes ranging from rugged coastal mountains, world-famous beaches, rustic canyons, rolling hills, and densely populated cities. The bioregion extends from the southern half of Ventura County to the Mexican Border and east to the edge of the Mojave desert. Two of California's largest metropolitan areas -- Los Angeles and San Diego -- are in this bioregion.

Location, Cities, People

Downtown  Los Angeles

Los Angeles -- Coast Savings, First Interstate and Citicorp office buildings (left to right)

Bounded on the north by, the southern end of the Los Padres National Forest, the bioregion extends some 200 miles south to Mexico, east to the Mojave Desert and west to the Pacific Ocean. The bioregion encompasses all or part of six counties: the coastal half of Ventura County, all of Orange County, most of Los Angeles County, the southwestern edge of San Bernardino County, the western end of Riverside County, and the western two-thirds of San Diego County. Major cities include Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Santa Ana, Anaheim, Riverside, and San Bernardino. The South Coast, home to two of the state's largest cities, is the most populous bioregion with more than 16.1 million people, according to 1990 census figures.

Metropolitan Los Angeles, a major transportation hub, is criss-crossed by a legendary network of freeways that have names as well as numbers. For example, Interstate 5, California's main north-south highway, is known in different segments as the Golden State Freeway, the Santa Ana Freeway, and the San Diego Freeway. Other major routes are Interstates, 8, 10, 15, 110, 210, 405, 605, and 805, U.S. 101, and State Highways 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway), 57, 60, 74, 76, 78, 91, 118, and 126.

As in much of California, the people of the South Coast bioregion reflect the state's cultural history. The Native American population includes many bands of Mission Indians, and the Spanish and Mexican heritage is evident in architecture, geographic names, and a large Spanish-speaking population. Rapid growth, employment opportunity, and a mild, mostly dry climate has attracted immigrants from all over the world, particularly in metropolitan Los Angeles, a cultural melting pot.

Tourist Attractions, Industries

San Diego Mission

San Diego Mission

Many of the nation's top tourist attractions are found in the South Coast bioregion, the home of Disneyland, Hollywood, Sea World, and the San Diego Zoo, miles of palm-fringed beaches and spectacular coastal mountain ranges for hiking and camping.

Major industries include oil, agriculture, fishing, shipping, movies and television, banking and finance, computers, and aerospace, which has declined with the ending of the Cold War. Military installations include Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, March Air Force Base, Miramar Naval Air Station, North Island Naval Air Station, and Point Mugu Naval Pacific Missile Test Center.

Climate and Geography
The year-around mild climate and varied geographical features of the South Coast contribute to its great popularity. Hot dry summers with predictable wildfires are followed by wet winters with storms that can trigger mudslides on fire-denuded slopes. Smog remains a serious problem in the South Coast bioregion, particularly the Los Angeles basin, but air quality regulations have helped to control it.

Fault line
Fault line causing a valley through a mountain range, with a lake, near Palmdale

The South Coast bioregion is a study in contrasts -- ocean and desert, flatlands and mountains, including 11,500-foot San Gorgonio Peak in Riverside County. Major rivers and their watersheds are: the Santa Clara, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, San Gabriel, San Luis Rey, San Jacinto, Santa Margarita, and San Diego. Publicly owned or managed lands include four national forests: the Angeles, Los Padres, Cleveland, and San Bernardino; numerous parks, state beaches, historic parks; and federal wilderness, recreation and wildlife areas, including Malibu Creek and Point Mugu State Parks, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Torrey Pines State Reserve, and Sweetwater and Tijuana National Wildlife Refuges. In San Diego, Orange and Riverside counties, the state's Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) pilot program involving local, state, and federal partners is helping to protect the coastal sage scrub habitat of the threatened California gnatcatcher. In the Santa Monica Mountains, the National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and state Department of Parks and Recreation are helping to preserve spectacular habitat. In Ventura County, endangered California condors are protected at the Sespe Condor Sanctuary.

Plants and Wildlife

Indian paintbrush
Indian paintbrush in the San Gabriel Mountains, along Hwy. 2

Tremendous urbanization in the South Coast bioregion has brought about the most intense effects on natural resources of any bioregion, resulting in alteration and destruction of habitat and proliferation of exotic or non-native species. In fact, the popular palm tree is not native to the Golden State. Habitat varies widely, from chaparral, juniper-pinyon woodland, and grasslands at lower elevations to mixed hardwood forest, southern oak, southern Jeffrey pine and southern yellow pine at higher levels. Along the coast, where real estate is especially prized, salt marshes and lagoons no longer are common habitat. But efforts are underway from Ventura County to the Mexican border to preserve and restore coastal wetlands.



The bioregion is home to mountain lions, coyotes, badgers, grey foxes, kit foxes, black bears, raccoons, mule deer, hawks, herons, golden eagles, ospreys, peregrine falcons, desert iguanas, dolphins, whales, endangered brown pelicans, and California sea lions. Rare animals include the Stephen's kangaroo rat, monarch butterfly, San Diego horned lizard, Peninsula desert bighorn sheep, orange-throated whiptail, California least tern, Belding's savannah sparrow, least Bell's vireo, Santa Ana sucker, arroyo southwestern toad and Tehachapi pocket mouse.

Rare plants include San Diego barrel cactus, Conejo buckwheat, Plummer's mariposa lily, mountain springs bush lupine, Otay tarplant, Laguna Mountains jewelflower, San Jacinto prickly phlox, and Mt. Gleason Indian paintbrush.

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