Coastal Description


A unique and imperiled area

The Gaviota Coast in Santa Barbara County, California, lies between Coal Oil Point in Goleta and Point Sal near Lompoc, and includes the coastal watersheds from the top of the ridge to the ocean.

The coastal Mediterranean ecosystems of the world are among the world's most threatened environments. The Gaviota Coast is the largest intact remnant of such an environment in Southern California. The Southern California Coastal Province (Pt. Conception to Mexico) contains the highest density of imperiled species of anywhere in the U.S.

While the Gaviota Coast includes just 15% of the 300-mile Southern California coastline, it contains about 50% of its remaining rural coastline. Even though most of the Southern California coastal areas have been dramatically altered and biologically degraded by expanding human occupation, the Gaviota Coast retains a high degree of biodiversity. This is true because of three key factors: natural and agricultural landscapes still prevail, the area is a transition zone between two distinct ecoregions, and the Santa Ynez Mountains serve as an effective wildlife migration corridor from large interior wildlands.

The marine ecosystem of the Santa Barbara Channel is also a mixing zone between the northern and southern marine biota, due to dominant current patterns. The current patterns in the Channel connect the mainland watersheds with the offshore marine ecosystem, including the Channel Islands and the Marine Sanctuary.

The Gaviota Coast supported the highest density of coastal Native Americans in California. Important archeological resources remain relatively undisturbed on the Gaviota Coast.

Agriculture on the Gaviota Coast dates back to the beginning of western settlement. Several families have been in agriculture for generations.

From here, see a map of the Project Area, take a photo tour, and learn about the rich resources of the area.