Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 83.80
Liaison Mark Maxwell
Submission Date March 1, 2019
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

University of California, Merced
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Francesca Cannizzo
Campus Biologist
Physical and Environmental Planning
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance?:
Yes

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

UC Merced manages over 7,000 acres of land consisting of sensitive vernal pool and annual grassland habitat that lies within a region of conservation importance – the California Floristic Province. Estimates suggest that close to 90 percent or more of vernal pool habitat in the Central Valley (including in Merced County) and in other parts of the states has been lost. The vernal pool habitat that UC Merced owns and manages support endemic rare plant and animal species, including many that are designated by federal and state government as rare, threatened or endangered.

Approximately 6,600 acres of sensitive vernal pool habitat UC Merced manages is referred to as the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve and the Merced County Preserve. The Reserve and Preserve, adjacent to the university, is used to conduct research and to offer education that will benefit the university and the Central Valley, as well as national and global communities. UC Merced owns and manages the vernal pool ecosystem to protect rare and endangered organisms and to allow university students and faculty to investigate ecological research questions that have relevance at local, national and global scales.


Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify environmentally sensitive areas on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or environmentally sensitive areas (including most recent year assessed) and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

Prior to the development of the UC Merced campus site, extensive biological surveys were conducted within the campus boundaries and the surrounding area. Surveys adhered to federal and state-approved protocols in order to facilitate a consistent and systematic approach to identifying rare, threatened and endangered species, as well as, critical habitat for species. Survey reports were submitted to various regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Detailed information regarding these surveys can be found in the UC Merced and University Community Project 2009 Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report (State Clearing House No. 2008041009).

Additionally, UC Merced annually monitors (2014-present) the effectiveness of management activities on the Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve and Merced County Preserve. Monitoring includes conducting focused surveys for threatened and endangered species, including rare plants, invertebrates and vertebrates. Furthermore, each year grazing practices, pest control activities, structural habitat improvements are evaluated and compiled into an annual monitoring report.


A brief description of identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

UC Merced campus and conservation lands are within annual grassland and vernal pool habitat that is a unique ecological resource of California’s Central Valley. There are hundreds of plants and animals existing on these properties. Below is a list of some of the threatened, endangered and special-status species that have been identified:

1. California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense)
2. Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
3. San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica)
4. American badger (Taxidea taxus)
5. Conservancy fairy shrimp (Branchinecta conservatio)
6. Vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi)
7. Vernal pool fairy shrimp (Branchinecta lynchi)
8. Midvalley fairy shrimp (Branchinecta mesovallensis)
9. Swainson's hawk (Buteo swainsoni)
10. Tricolored blackbird (Agelaisu tricolor)
11. Western Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypogea)
12. Prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus)
13. Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
14. Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)
15. Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis)
16. Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus)
17. Loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus)
18. Colusa grass (Neostapfia colusana)
19. San Joaquin Orcutt grass (Orcuttia inaequalis)
20. Succulent owl's clover (Castilleja campestris ssp. succulenta)
21. Shining Navarretia (Navarretia nigelliformis subsp. radians)

Over 60 species of birds have been identified on the Reserve, thirteen species were documented as breeding. Common diurnal raptors include Golden Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, American Kestrels and Prairie Falcons. Long-billed Curlews and Short-eared Owls are found here in winter. Coyotes have been observed, Burrowing Owls, Golden Eagles, on the reserve. Several pairs of Burrowing Owls nest in ground squirrel burrows and American Kestrels began nesting in 2014 in wooden nest boxes erected by students. A graduate student and several undergraduates have studied wetland birds and kestrel diet.


A brief description of plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

The Regents of the University of California, in collaboration with the California Wildlife Conservation Board, have placed more than 25,000 acres in eastern Merced County into permanent conservation. The majority of the 25,000 acres are protected by conservation easements, which require the land be conserved for natural resource values. UC Merced has also dedicated over 8,000 acres directly adjacent to campus to open space, conservation, scientific research, and related uses.

The Merced Vernal Pools and Grassland Reserve and the Merced County Preserve are managed by UC Merced in accordance with regulatory agency approved management plans (e.g., Management Plan for Conservation Lands for the University of California, Merced). Additionally, UC Merced adheres to conditions of several environmental agreements for the development and on-going operation and maintenance of the campus. Below is a list of agreements the University follows:
• California Department of Fish and Wildlife 2011 Incidental Take Permit No. 2081-2009-010-04, together with Amendment 1 (October 3, 2011) and Amendment 2 (December 17, 2015);
• U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2002 Biological Opinion Service file number 1-1-02-F-0107 and its subsequent 2009 and 2016 reiterations;
• U.S. Department of the Army Corps of Engineers 2009 Clean Water Act Section 404 Permit No. SPK-1999-00203 and its modification (March 15, 2012);
• California Regional Water Quality Control Board 2009 Water Quality Certification Section 401 WDID No. 5B24CR00013 and its modification (April 11, 2016);
• UC Merced and University Community Project 2009 Environmental Impact Statement/Environmental Impact Report State Clearing House No. 2008041009


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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