Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve lies at the westernmost edge of the Mojave Desert along a transition zone between the lower, hotter Mojave Desert and the high-elevation ecosystems of the San Bernardino Mountains. A smaller topographic gradient occurs at the scale of the reserve. Piñon pines and California junipers grow amid hills of weathered granite boulders, along with Joshua trees, mesquite, and beavertail cactus. Washes, alluvial fans, and a wetland seep add further habitat diversity. Animal species typically associated with other regions in southern California have been found to co-occur at the Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve, including three species of each quail and towhee, desert and coastal horned lizards, and desert and dusky-footed woodrats.
The Reserve encompasses 306 acres (124 hectares) and is managed to maintain and enhance native biodiversity and ecosystem health for the purposes of research, education, and public and partner service programs. UC Irvine oversees and administers its management under UCI-NATURE (http://www.research.uci.edu/centers-institutes/uci-nature.html ), a program providing access to local and regional reserves and field-based assets. The Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve is also one of 39 reserves in University of California’s Natural Reserve System (NRS), the largest university-operated network of natural reserves in the world. Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve is located in the Morongo Basin, just north of the town of Yucca Valley and is a 2 ½ hour drive from UC Irvine and two hours from UC Riverside.
Research, education, and outreach possibilities at the reserve are enriched by its proximity to other protected desert ecosystems: southeast and an approximately 25 minute drive is Joshua Tree National Park, more than one-half million acres that encompass parts of both the Mojave and Colorado deserts; northwest and an approximately 15 minute drive is the Wildlands Conservancy’s Pioneertown Mountains Preserve, providing access via Pipes Canyon, a riparian drainage of San Gorgonio Mountain. These areas share many biophysical elements characteristic of the western Mojave Desert in addition to having unique features. The Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve provides a protected site to extend certain kinds of research or teaching that may be difficult to conduct in public areas. Together, these areas offer opportunities for comparative studies, translation of knowledge for the development of best management practices, in addition to studies of sustainability and human relations with natural areas in California’s desert environments.
Other opportunities for research and teaching in southern California mountain and deserts available through the NRS include: Oasis de los Osos, part of the James San Jacinto Mountains Reserve; the Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center; the Steele Burnand Anza Borrego Desert Research Center http://anzaborrego.ucnrs.org/ ; and the Sweeney Granite Mountains Desert Research Center.
Burns Piñon Ridge Reserve Facts
Acres: 306 acres (124 hectares)
Elevation: 1080 and 1300 meters (3,540 to 4,260 feet).
Average of 25 cm (10 inches) of precipitation annually
Maximum in July of 35 degrees C (95 degrees F)
Minimum of -1.1 degrees C (30 degrees F).