of San Francisco County. Yet, as part of the California Floristic Province, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots, it retains an impressive flora and fauna. The southern part of the county still includes large, relatively undeveloped sections of coastal sage scrub habitat that have been recognized in the Orange County Natural Communities Conservation Planning (NCCP) process (Speegle, 2007).
Orange County contains significant populations of rare and endangered species of plants, birds, and mammals. It is home to over half of the remaining population of coastal cactus wrens (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus; http://www.prbo.org/calpif/htmldocs/species/scrub/cactus_wren.html), and to over 15% of the remaining population of the California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica; http://www.prbo.org/calpif/htmldocs/species/scrub/california_gnatcatcher.html), the country’s largest contiguous population of this threatened species. In view of the huge rate of destruction of natural habitats in the county, we are probably losing countless species of less conspicuous animals and plants before they are even documented. Fortunately there is a remarkable level of public engagement on local biodiversity issues, and hopefully this engagement may help to prevent or slow the losses of biodiversity.
One of the most inspirational examples of local activity for biodiversity conservation is the work of Frank and Fran Robinson, who worked tirelessly from 1963 to 1973 to save Upper Newport Bay (http://www.newportbay.org/bayintro.htm) from development. The bay is now a 752-acre State Ecological Reserve associated with a 140-acre County Nature Preserve. It is home to thousands of resident and migratory birds as well as multiple other forms of marine and terrestrial wildlife. It will be mentioned several times in this chapter. Another hugely successful local effort, involving dedicated efforts by James Dilley, Elisabeth Brown, and others in the Laguna Greenbelt organization (http://www.lagunagreenbelt.org/History.html), led to the establishment of extensive protected areas in Laguna Canyon, now consolidated as the 6400-acre Laguna Coast Wilderness Park (http://www.lagunacanyon.org/index.html).
Collecting data on any group of organisms requires, of course, accurate identification, ideally to species or even subspecies. Traditional field guides and web-based identification guides are becoming sophisticated and accessible, but most of us tend to develop expertise in a specific group of organisms. Sharing this expertise is a great way to engage the public in more data collection.
Arthropods (insects, spiders, crustaceans, millipedes, and centipedes) make up more than three-quarters of the species on Earth. However,