Monterey Pine Forest

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An environmental summary created by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.

Monterey pine is one of the major ecosystems in the Central Coast of California. It provides important habitat for endangered and sensitive plant and animal species, occurs within areas of urban development, and is designated as Environmentally Sensitive Habitat (ESHA) under the Coastal Act[1]. While its native range is limited to few places, Monterey Pine is the most planted conifer species in the world[2].

Immature Monterey pine cones. Image

Native Monterey pine forest description

Map of Monterey pine forest distribution at the Ano Nuevo, Monterey Peninsula, and Cambria occurrences. Image
Douglas iris is a common understory plant species in Monterey pine forest. Image John Wandke, 2016
  • Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) is native to closed-cone coniferous forest within three distinct coastal areas in [California's Central Coast Region]. It is an evergreen conifer growing to heights between 15 and 30 meters in the wild, with needles mostly 8-15 centimeters long and generally in bundles of three[3]. It's cones are asymmetrical, remain attached to branches for years, and often open in response to fire or high temperatures. [4]
  • The three distinct U.S. populations of Monterey pines occur on the Central California Coast.
  • The Monterey Peninsula occurrence of Monterey pine forest is the largest native occurrence worldwide. [5]
  • Monterey pine forest occurs within low elevations that are subject to marine climate influences and common are associated with sediments of marine origin. Soils in Monterey pine forest are often acidic with a distinct clay layer.[6]

Locations of interest

  • Monterey pines occupy a limited native range, extending beyond that through planting and volunteering. They are known from Monterey County (Monterey Peninsula), Santa Cruz/San Mateo Counties (Ano Nuevo), and San Luis Obispo County (Cambria).
  • Monterey pines are also known from two island populations off the coast of Baja California, Mexico: Isla Cedros and Isla Guadalupe[6]
  • Beyond their native range, Monterey pines, known outside the United States as Radiata pine, are planted in vast tracks as a timber crop in New Zealand, Australia, Chile, South Africa, and Spain [4].
  • Native Range: According to pollen recovered from sediment cores, Monterey pines have been present in isolated patches along the California coast over the past 2 million years. Populations appear to have been most abundant during favorable climate conditions at the end of ice ages and interglacials and during warmer periods of ice ages. A positive correlation between Monterey pine pollen and charcoal also speaks to the importance of fire in its ability to colonize [7].

Habitat values

Hooker's manzanita occurring in an open Monterey pine forest understory, Del Monte Forest, Pebble Beach, California. Image John Wandke 2014
Federal endangered Yadon's piperia. Image Calflora

1. Monterey pine forest is a unique forest community that supports a variety of sensitive plant species, besides Monterey pine (a California Native Plant Society 1B.1 species) itself. The California Natural Diversity Database lists:

  • Hickman's onion (Allium hickmanii) (CNPS 1B.1)
  • Hooker's manzanita (Arctostaphylos hookeri ssp. hookeri) (CNPS 1B.2)
  • Pajaro manzanita (Arctostaphylos pajaroensis) (CNPS 1B.1)
  • Sandmat manzanita (Arctostaphylos pumila) (CNPS 1B.2)
  • Monterey cypress (Hesperocyparis macrocarpa) (CNPS 1B.2)
  • Yadon's rein orchid (Piperia yadonii) (Federal endangered, CNPS 1B.1)
  • Hickman's cinquefoil (Potentilla hickmanii) (Federal endangered, State endangered, CNPS 1B.1)
  • Pine rose (Rosa pinetorum) (CNPS 1B.2)

2. Monarch butterflies use Monterey pines as overwintering locations, as seen in Pacific Grove, Monterey, California [8].

3. Monterey pine forest provides habitat for a variety of wildlife, including Monterey dusky-footed woodrat, mountain lion, bobcat, black-tailed deer, and birds including California scrubjay [4], brown creeper [9], and chestnut-backed chickadees [10]


  • Monterey pine forest is threatened by development, fragmentation, climate change, bark beetles, and disease such as pitch canker (Fusarium circinatum). Pitch canker appears to especially affect fragmented Monterey pine forest, but is not as serious of a threat as initially thought. [6]

Current protection plans

While Monterey pines are not named in the Monterey County Municipal Code as a protected tree species (Section 21.64.260) [11], protection of this native tree is designated in several Central California Coast local ordinances:

  • City of Carmel-by-the-Sea: City code emphasizes protection of Monterey pine forest and Monterey pine trees. Removal of a Monterey pine requires a permit [12].
  • City of Pacific Grove: City code states that Monterey pines >6-inches in diameter at 54-inches above ground are protected and require a permit for removal[13].
  • City of Monterey: City code does not list Monterey pines specifically, but the City Forester can require replacement of removed trees at 1:1 or 3:1 mitigation ratios. Conifers >30-feet-high or 12-inches diameter at 54-inches above grade are considered "landmark" trees [14].
  • Unincorporated community of Pebble Beach: Del Monte Forest Land Use Planning establishes protection of Monterey pine through required approval for non-emergency removal of trees greater than or equal to 12" diameter at breast height. Preference is given for long-term protection of the tree over other potentially conflicting objectives [15].
    • 275 acres of Monterey pine forest are preserved in the Huckleberry Hill Natural Habitat Area in Del Monte Forest, Pebble Beach, California [1].
    • 84 acres of Monterey pine forest are protected in the S.F.B. Morse Preserve in Del Monte Forest, Pebble Beach, California [16]
  • City of Cambria: The Cambria Forest Committee requires four replacement Monterey pines be planted for every one tree removed [17].
  • MPRPD protects Monterey pine forest at the Joyce Stevens Preserve in Monterey/Carmel Valley and the Laidlaw-Apte Pine Forest Preserve in Carmel Highlands.

Further Research Needed

  • The Pebble Beach Project development involves the destruction and removal of Monterey Pines. A mitigation plan to replant trees equal to or in excess of those removed was proposed in the EIR [18].
  • Point Lobos Reserve and Point Lobos Ranch are home to Monterey Pine forest, including San Jose Creek, one of the world’s largest native Monterey pine forests. The Carmel Area State Parks General Plan may include more information about the protection of Monterey Pine in these two adjacent public lands[19].

Laws, policies, and regulations

Monterey pine forest is also recognized by State Agencies and Organizations


Stakeholders include entities who have an interest in protecting this unique resource. Examples include:

Government agencies


Private Sector

  • Pebble Beach Company/Del Monte Forest
  • Individual property owners

Related links

External Links



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 [Monterey County Local Coastal Program Major Amendment Number 1-05 (Measure A)]
  2. [Lanner RM. Confifers of California.Cachuma Press. Jan. 2002]
  3. Matthews, M.A. 2006. An illustrated field key to the flowering plants of Monterey County: California Native Plant Society
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Bates, D.T., Dalessio, R., Nedeff, N. and Stevens, J. 2011. The Monterey pine forest, California's living legacy: Pine Nut Press.
  5. Monterey County Local Coastal Program Major Amendment Number 1-05 (Measure A)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Elkhorn Slough Coastal Training Program. 2006. Pinus radiata fact sheet
  7. Millar, C.I. 1998. Reconsidering the conservation of Monterey pine. Fremontia Vol. 26, No. 3. pp 12-16
  8. City of Pacific Grove, Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary [1]
  11. Monterey County Code Section 21.64.260
  12. City of Carmel Tree Ordinance
  13. City of Pacific Grove Tree Ordinance
  14. Monterey Tree Ordinance
  15. Biological Resources of the Del Monte Forest. Monterey Pine and Monterey Pine Forest Habitat. Del Monte Forest Preservation and Development Plan. Zander Associates. 2002.
  17. Cambria Forest Committee
  18. County of Monterey. Pebble Beach Final Impact Report. 2012
  19. Carmel Area State Parks. Preliminary General Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Analysis. 2018


This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessary reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.