Vegetation is often considered to be the best single surrogate for habitat and ecosystems. Vegetation science has thus played an increasing role in wildlife and natural lands conservation and management over the years; it is now among the principal tools involved in wildlands management and planning.
In 2007, the State Legislature required the Department of Fish and Wildlife to develop and maintain a vegetation mapping standard for the state (Fish and Game Code Section 1940). This standard complies with the National Vegetation Classification System and is manifested in the Survey of California Vegetation (PDF) and implemented by the Vegetation Classification and Mapping Program (VegCAMP). VegCAMP focuses on developing and maintaining maps and classifying all vegetation and habitats in the state to support conservation and management decisions at the local, regional, and state levels.
The principal roles of the program include:
- developing and maintaining a standardized vegetation classification system for California;
- implementing and updating best methods of vegetation assessment including sampling, analyzing, reporting, and mapping vegetation at multiple scales;
- training resource professionals on these methods and coordinating with other agencies and organizations to ensure a statewide, standardized approach toward collecting, reporting, and interpreting vegetation data;
- developing best practices for using these data for long-range conservation and management of natural lands in the state;
- conducting integrated vegetation assessments throughout the state in areas with high conservation and management interest to the Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies;
- archiving and distributing vegetation data;
- coordinating with other state, federal, and local agencies and organizations involved in vegetation assessment; and
- integrating standard vegetation classification systems with species distributions to encourage unified habitat assessments and conservation efforts.
Long-range goals of the program include:
- completing and maintaining a statewide SCV-compliant classification and map in collaboration with other agencies and organizations,
- developing and updating the most appropriate vegetation products for conservation planning and natural resources management within the state, and
- integrating the program with similar ones from other states and countries to facilitate national and international conservation and management of natural resources.
Applications of VegCAMP efforts to analyses of statewide spatial data include:
- regional conservation planning,
- wildlands fire/fuels modeling for improved preparedness,
- identifying individual plant and animal species distributions,
- predicting the spread of invasive species,
- early scoping for transportation projects to minimize impacts,
- prioritizing land acquisitions for parks and ecological reserves,
- identifying important wildlife corridors, and
- setting a baseline for monitoring impacts of global climate change.