Natural History of the Southern Sierra Nevada

The southern Sierra Nevada is the backbone of California in the middle of the state and separates cismontane or western California at the crest of the range from the transmontane or eastern Great Basin and Mojave Desert. The region is at the intersection of three of North America’s ten floristic provinces: 1) Californian Floristic Province, 2) Mojave Subprovince of the Sonoran Desert Floristic Province, 3) Great Basin Desert Floristic Province. This assemblage is unique to all of North America.

This makes the Sierra Nevada one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America, north of Mexico. The region is also geologically diverse and relatively young in geological terms.

Several Native American nations comprised the human population of the Sierra Nevada prior to the arrival of European explorers and colonists. These claimed territories were taken first by Mexico and then by the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Now much of the Sierra Nevada high country is public land with private interests still holding claim to many meadows, stream courses, and most of the valleys.