Habitat is a place where species get what they need to survive: food, water, cover, and a place to raise young. By protecting native habitat, Carlsbad is able to protect a large number of native plants and animals, many of which are sensitive. Sensitive species are considered vulnerable or declining. Without protection, sensitive species could become extinct over time. Sensitive species that are "covered" by the HMP are considered by wildlife agencies to be adequately protected by the preserve system design in Carlsbad.
A total of 56 sensitive plant and animal species have been recorded from or have the potential to occur in Carlsbad. Of these, 24 species are covered by the HMP, which means that they are considered by the wildlife agencies to be adequately protected within the Carlsbad preserve system. An additional 19 species could be considered for coverage if the additional funding becomes available for management within the city, or if other cities in North County have similar habitat management plans approved.
One of these sensitive species is the coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica). The gnatcatcher (shown at right) is a small blue-grey songbird that typically lives in coastal sage scrub habitat. It is a federally threatened species and its preservation guided much of the HMP's conservation planning. Carlsbad's gnatcatcher populations are a critical link to the distribution of this sensitive species throughout north San Diego county. Studies from 2010 and 2013 summarize the citywide distribution and abundance of the gnatcatcher.