California Native Plant Society

Vegetation Program

Sampling Protocols and Projects

Over the past ten years, the protocols developed by the CNPS vegetation program have been used to map and inventory millions of acres of California vegetation. These projects have included Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, over 15 million acres of the Mojave Desert including Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, the East Mojave Preserve, the BLM's Northern and Eastern Colorado Desert Management Area, as well as several local projects such as Suisun Marsh and ongoing projects in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, San Diego, and Napa Counties. In addition, CNPS has recently finished projects in the Inner Central Coast, San Dieguito Watershed, Western Riverside Co., Tuolumne Co. - Peoria Wildlife Area, and others.

The cumulative knowledge gained by these projects has greatly extended our understanding of vegetation in the state and allowed us to develop new detailed data-driven classifications. These projects also are affording us the ability to conduct conservation planning with local and regional cooperating agencies and organizations using defensible and mappable vegetation types.

The Vegetation Program has also targeted several of the state's rarest vegetation communities for sampling, and quantitative definitions for these types have been developed. These include Central California Sycamore woodlands, Southern Maritime Chaparral, Riversidean Alluvial Fan Sage Scrub, and some forms of southern Coastal Sage Scrub.

Volunteers from the local chapters play a key role in prioritizing areas for sampling and collecting data in the CNPS Vegetation Program. Most chapters have a vegetation coordinator who works with statewide leadership to develop vegetation sampling goals and organizes local sampling projects. To get involved at the local level, contact the CNPS chapter nearest you, or contact the Program's staff Vegetation Ecologist.

California Juniper Series photo by Todd Keeler-WolfAs an example, the Program staff has worked with local CNPS chapters on sampling and mapping projects from 2001 to present. These include the Coyote Ridge project with the Santa Clara Valley Chapter, the San Dieguito River Valley project with the San Diego Chapter, and the Mayacamas project with the Milo Baker Chapter. Volunteers have committed themselves to many days of sampling already, and there are more opportunities in the spring through fall of each year to participate in local projects.

Over time, the field methods used to collect vegetation data have been modified to reflect our changing knowledge of the systems involved. The links below are to the most recent sampling protocol and data form being used by the Vegetation Program.

Instructions and Forms

The most recently revised instructions and forms are provided in PDF format. You must have Adobe® Acrobat Reader to view these files.

Click on the links below to access the Vegetation Rapid Assessment and Relevé protocols and field forms:

To view the PDF file, left click on the link. To save the file for off-line viewing, right click (or option click) on the link and choose "save target as..."

**Please note: if you are using these forms out in the field, the CNPS Vegetation Program would greatly appreciate if you can send us photocopies of your completed forms. We will enter the data into our rapid assessment database, archive the information, and do future classification analyses. We have program assistants that are ready and able to enter data upon arrival. Also if requested, we can send you a hardcopy database report summarizing the data you have given us.

Please send photocopies/scanned copies via post, email or fax to Julie Evens, Vegetation Program Director, at:

2707 K Street, Suite 1
Sacramento, CA  95816
Fax: (916) 324-0475

Upon sending your data, we will make the best use of your data to update the existing statewide classification, to identify and update range-wide distributions for all vegetation types, and to make defensible definitions of vegetation.


CNPS Contacts

For additional information email



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