Located on UC Irvine’s campus, the UCI Ecological Preserve offers students, faculty, and the public an opportunity to experience a subset of ecosystems native to Orange County. A series of hills, ridgetop vistas, and a valley bottom create a range of microclimates supporting rich species diversity given the Preserve’s modest 60 acre size. The hills consist of coastal sage scrub and grassland and a short riparian drainage at their base supports large shrubs and trees.
Typical of coastal areas in southern California, the UCI Ecological Preserve exists as a fragment of open space within an urban landscape and retains ecological attributes associated with a recent land use history of ranching and agriculture. The Preserve was established as part of a larger conservation effort in Orange County in the mid 1990’s to protect natural ecosystems in their entirety, including habitat linkages between open space areas necessary for their long term sustainability. This management plan is called the Natural Communities Conservation Plan and consists of over 30,000 acres of protected open space in central and coastal Orange County (occonservation.org/; www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/planning/nccp). This connection to other natural areas, combined with the mission of the University, positions the Preserve as an ideal site for furthering our understanding of natural areas, their interactions with human activities, and how best to manage for their sustainability and benefits to society.
UCI-Nature is an umbrella program providing an operational structure for the management UCI’s protected natural areas, including the Ecological Preserve. UCI-Nature works to facilitate partnerships between University Environmental Centers (Center for Environmental Biology, UCI OCEANS, Water UCI), faculty, and students and other open space land owners and managers, offering pathways to extend the University’s services and leadership training for students.
In order to retain the Preserve’s ecological values and our ability to understand how these ecosystems function, use is restricted. Please review the Preserve’s rules of use and contact Preserve staff within UCI-Nature for additional information on use for research, education and community engagement.