California Native Plant Society

Manual of California Vegetation Database Project

The Online Manual
is now available!

The recent publication of A Manual of California Vegetation, 2 Edition (MCV2) is the result of more than ten years of active work in updating the CNPS signature publication on vegetation for the state. The MCV2 provides a systematic approach to classifying and describing vegetation in California. With defensible definitions, descriptions, and maps comes a greater ability to assess extent, location, rarity, and threats to these natural communities. 

A manual of California Vegetation, 2nd Ed. (cover)MCV2 focuses on individual species, species assemblages, and their surrounding habitats, and has been expanded to include the following:

  • Over 480 descriptions
  • 352 distribution maps of vegetation alliances
  • Descriptions of regional variation
  • Detailed life history information
  • Data on fire, flooding, and other natural processes
  • Restoration and other management considerations and
  • Revised and expanded lists of references


To increase exposure and broaden applications of the MCV2, CNPS is building a database system for archiving, accessing, and adding to this vegetation information; and to make it available publicly via the web. 

The objectives of this upgrade include:

  • Updating the data platform to current technological standards, which will allow immediate displays of current information on California vegetation
  • Adding intuitive search capabilities as well as custom reporting functions for people to easily access and use the data
  • Providing overlays and queries of distribution maps of vegetation types
  • Providing a parallel display with the Online Inventory of Rare Plants, and eventually interfacing the two databases to complement each other and provide comparative data between our Rare Plant and Vegetation programs

The MCV has proven to have broad application to the work of consulting firms, government agencies, land owners and managers, and others.  Because it provides synoptic and detailed views of vegetation from the standpoints of biology, distribution, and management, it allows for ecologically sound resource assessment and land-use planning. 

An online system will allow easy viewing of the state vegetation information, and allow us to more readily view, update and improve the vegetation information for the entire state.  Users will be able to produce their own lists of vegetation types by region through a set of simple online functions, and find pertinent information about specific vegetation types, plant species, regional distributions, or other characteristics of interest.  The database will also include a tool that would allow us to receive new information from users such as consulting biologists and citizen scientists.

We have identified several additional benefits that an MCV2 database platform would provide:

  1. increased conservation and management of our state’s natural vegetation resources,
  2. greater public exposure to CNPS's scientific and educational tools, and 3) integrated information using state and national standards.

To date, CNPS has acquired significant private funding for the project in addition to financial sponsorship from key agencies and organizations that support our work in vegetation classification. Even so, we still need additional funding to bring the project on-line.

If you are interested in helping CNPS financially to get MCV2 and related information on-line, please contact us.

We thank the following organizations for their generous support of this project:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Anonymous Thanksgiving Donation Jenkins Family Ronald P. Evens Foundation The Nature Conservancy
additional support by
Save the Redwoods League
San Francisco Bay Joint VentureWildlands Logo



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