MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
California shares a Mediterranean climate with only five regions throughout the world, thus making it home to more than 100 threatened and endangered species.
“Southern California offers an incredible amount of biodiversity,” said Jim L. Asmus, wildlife biologist, Assistant Chief of Staff’s Environmental Security, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. “Camp Pendleton may not be a geographical island, but we are ecologically isolated and that has encouraged a lot of diversity and many unique organisms.”
Seventeen federally listed threatened or endangered species are found on, or transit through, the 220-square mile base with one found almost exclusively on Pendleton.
“Most of our base biologist would probably agree that the Pacific Pocket Mouse is the most endangered species on base,” Asmus said. “It can only be found in four locations in the world and three of them are on base.”
The Pacific Pocket Mouse was listed as critically endangered in 1994 after the species was believed to be extinct for the past 20 years, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Research conducted by California Fish and Wildlife in 1993 revealed small Orange County populations and in 1995 revealed a substantial base population. Recent research by base wildlife technicians estimates less than 100 exist today.
“Everyday there are biologists and ecologists working to answer the question of how important a species is to the environment,” said Asmus. “It really is an ongoing effort and we are learning more and more as time goes on.”
The “Golden State” is the most populated state in the nation making, up nearly 10 percent of the entire U.S. population, according to the 2008 U.S. Census. Most of these residents live in the biodiversity-rich portion of the state with the highest densities occurring along the southern coast.
Population growth is the driving force behind nearly all the direct causes of habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation in the CFP today, according to the Department of Botany, National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution.
“There are some remarkable resources on Camp Pendleton only because of the Marine Corps,” said Asmus. “If not for the Marine Corps, this area would have turned into condominiums and parking lots a long time ago.”
The California Floral Provence is distinguished more by its native plant life than animal biodiversity. Of nearly 3,500 species of vascular plants in the hotspot, more than 61 percent are found nowhere else in the world, according to Conservation International. The high levels of native plant species are due to its varied topography, climate zones, geology and soils.
Camp Pendleton reflects this exclusive diversity with a rare plant named after the base. Pendleton button-celery, cousin to the federally-endangered San Diego button-celery, is indigenous to Camp Pendleton and was named rare, threatened, or endangered in California.
Researchers were conducting San Diego button-celery surveys on base in the 90’s, when they stumbled on a closely-related unidentified species, said Asmus. After studying the plant, experts soon learned it had never been discovered before and named it after the base.
Many rich and varied natural and cultural resources are present on Department of Defense installations, states Pendleton’s 2007 Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan. The DoD has an obligation to protect those resources for future generations.
“I encourage base residents to become more tolerant and flexible around wildlife, instead of insisting wildlife flex around them,” said Asmus. “When I do my job, I don’t think about protecting nature simply for nature. I protect nature for the functions it offers to people.”
For additional information regarding endangered species on base, log onto Camp Pendleton’s Environmental Office Web site at www.pendleton.usmc.mil/base/environmental.