Systematic, science-based conservation planning is a hallmark of the Conservancy. For biodiversity to thrive, habitats need to be protected, enhanced, or restored not just in the still wild places on the planet but also where people live and make their livelihoods. 

Multi-disciplinary planning can help elucidate where the highest priority places are and what needs to happen there – and inform tradeoffs between conservation and other societal values.

Science in Action

Terrestrial | Planning | Science

Connectivity Roadmap

Can we identify areas where nature will need to migrate in response to climate change?

Marine | Planning | Science

Saving Tomorrow’s Coast

Can California protect its iconic coastline as sea levels rise?

2018 | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Blogs

Managing Fisheries in the Face of Climate Change

Jono Wilson

The author discusses a need for a new paradigm in fisheries management to address the challenges of a changing climate.  See related publication by the author and colleagues in Conservation Letters.


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Groundwater sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley: Multiple benefits if agricultural lands are retired and restored strategically

Rodd Kelsey, Abby Hart, H. Scott Butterfield, Dan Vink

Restoring habitat in retired farmland could reduce water demand and provide ecosystem services for farmers and local communities. In some areas of California, as a result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), it is likely that large amounts of agricultural land will need to…


2018 | Freshwater | Planning | Science | Maps & Webmaps

Rearing habitat objectives to support salmon in the Central Valley

Travis M. Hinkelman, Myfanwy Johnston, Joseph E. Merz, Julie Zimmerman

To restore degraded stream corridors and develop large-scale, sustainable watershed conservation strategies, it is essential for managers to consider—in order to ultimately re-establish—the habitat requirements of keystone species. For example, in order to restore salmon in the Central Valley of California, we need a clear…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Conserving California's Coastal Habitats: A Legacy and a Future with Sea Level Rise

Walter N. Heady, Brian S. Cohen, Mary G. Gleason, Joshua N. Morris, Sarah G. Newkirk, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, Hilary R. Walecka, Elizabeth Gagneron

Sea level rise presents a new challenge to coastal conservation. The authors quantified and mapped the vulnerability of habitats, imperiled species, and conservation lands to sea level rise throughout the entire California coast, where high biodiversity, high endemism, and 26.5 million people coincide. Combining habitat…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Better late than never: a synthesis of strategic land retirement and restoration in California

Chris Lortie, Alex Filazzola, Rodd Kelsey, Abigail Hart, Scott Butterfield

Over the past 100 years, California's Central Valley has undergone a massive transformation from desert to a mosaic of farmland and urban development. This transformation has also meant many desert species have lost habitat. Now, new groundwater regulations are calling for the retirement of more…


2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Blogs

Climate Connectivity Analysis: An Innovation Approach to Identifying Critical Habitat in California

Alex Leumer, Carrie Schloss, Cara Lacey

Plants and animals lack the ability to change their environment. As their current habitat becomes unsuitable due to climate change, they may search out new, more suitable habitat to adapt to changing conditions. With limited resources for protecting additional lands, the conservation community must protect…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Water Supply and Habitat Resiliency for a Future Los Angeles River: Site-Specific Natural Enhancement Opportunities Informed by River Flow and Watershed-Wide Action

Brian Cohen, Shona Ganguly, Sophie Parker, John Randall, Jill Sourial, and Lara Weatherly of The Nature Conservancy, Land IQ, Natural History Museum Los Angeles County, WRC Consulting Services Inc., Travis Longcore, University of Southern California, Connective Issue, Inc.

As a basic principle of ecological systems, a watershed’s hydrology determines the flow characteristics of its river system. These flows define what the biological characteristics of that river will be, which in turn determine what kinds of habitat enhancement projects will succeed at various locations along…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecological spillover dynamics of organisms from urban to natural landscapes

Jill E. Spear, Erik K. Grijalva, Julia S. Michaels, Sophie S. Parker

This paper discusses the impact of urban-dwelling plants and animals on regional wildland populations, both within and across species. The authors reviewed the global conservation literature and identified seven ecological processes that have the potential to be affected by spillover from urban to wildland areas.…


2018 | Freshwater | Planning | Publications & Reports

A freshwater conservation blueprint for California: prioritizing watersheds for freshwater biodiversity

Jeanette K. Howard, Kurt A. Fesenmyer, Theodore E. Grantham, Joshua H. Viers, Peter R. Ode, Peter B. Moyle, Sarah J. Kupferburg, Joseph L. Furnish, Andrew Rehn, Joseph Slusark, Raphael D. Mazor, Nicholas R. Santos, Ryan A. Peek, Amber N. Wright

Freshwater ecosystems are in peril globally. Threats to freshwater biodiversity are numerous and include habitat degradation, pollution, overexploitation, dam construction, species invasion, and hydroclimatic change. With conservation resources often limited, prioritization tooks are needed by land and water managers. To fill this need, the authors…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecological Values of the Amargosa River in California

Sophie S. Parker, Jim Moore, Leonard Warren

The 185 mile-long Amargosa River, one of only two rivers with perennial flow in the California portion of the Mojave Desert, is fed by an ancient groundwater aquifer. The river provides habitat for hundreds of organisms, including a unique suite of rare, endemic, and imperiled…


2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Science in Action

Connectivity Roadmap: Can we identify areas where nature will need to migrate in response to climate change?

Dick Cameron, Carrie Schloss

The Conservancy’s Omniscape tool provides a connectivity roadmap for plants and animals that need to adapt as the climate warms.


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Improving multi-objective ecological flow management with flexible priorities and turn-taking: a case study from the Sacramento River and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

Alexander C.A.D., F. Poulsen, D.C.E. Robinson, B.O. Ma , R.A. Luster

Management of the Sacramento River and Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta is one of California’s greatest challenges, requiring trade-offs between valued components that serve a multiplicity of conflicting purposes. This paper demonstrates an improved method for multiple-objective allocation of water based on a “turn-taking” optimization model. The…


2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Assessment of Wildlife Crossing Sites for the Interstate 15 and Highway 101 Freeways in Southern California

Seth P. D. Riley, Trish Smith, T. Winston Vickers

Freeways are barriers to wildlife passage and gene exchange. In Southern California, mountain lion movement has been severely restricted due to this infrastructure. As a result, the mountain lions in the Santa Ana and Santa Monica  Mountains have become severely inbred, threatening their long-term health and…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Harnessing cross-border resources to confront climate change

Aburto-Oropeza, O., M. Edwards, S. Butterfield, and 93 additional authors

The U.S. and Mexico face many shared ecological changes due to the increased frequency and severity of droughts and rising energy demands; trends that entail economic costs for both nations and major implications for human well-being. This paper synthesizes current knowledge about the most pressing issues…


2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Adapting the bioblitz to meet conservation needs

Parker, S.S., B.V. Brown, B.S. Cohen, N.S. Fraga, J.J. Knapp, Z. Principe, J. Moore, G.B. Pauly, J.M. Randall, T.A. Wake

A bioblitz is a collaborative, rapid field assessment that takes place in a given location over a short period of time. This paper discusses how bioblitz events involving experts are being used to meet the needs of conservation. The authors discuss the best practices for…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Identification of potentially suitable habitat for strategic land retirement and restoration in the San Joaquin Desert

H. Scott Butterfield, Rodd Kelsey, Abigail Hart, Tanushree Biswas, Mark Kramer, Dick Cameron, Laura Crane, Erica Brand

California's Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) established a framework for sustainable, local groundwater management. SGMA requires groundwater-dependent regions to halt overdraft and bring basins into balanced levels of pumping and recharge. As a result, agricultural land retirement is on the rise in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s largest agricultural region and home to…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Rethinking the Grid: Optimizing California’s Transmission System For Renewable Energy

Energy+Environmental Economics for The Nature Conservancy, Arne Olson, Doug Allen, Vivian Li, Emily Leslie

California leads the nation in the transition to a clean energy economy. However, current transmission planning processes limit development of new renewable resources. This report (slide deck), produced for the Conservancy by Energy+Environmental Economics, analyzes an alternative transmission planning framework (Energy-Only) using the San Joaquin Valley as…


2017 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Regional Prioritization for Forest Restoration across California's Sierra Nevada

Rodd Kelsey, Edward Smith, Tanushree Biswas, Chris McColl, Kristen Wilson, Dick Cameron

This report provides a systematic regional-scale assessment of biodiversity, fire regime change, and fire risk to infrastructure of forested watersheds across the Sierra Nevada and prioritizes watersheds for forest restoration where the greatest risk reduction to biodiversity and human infrastructure can be achieved. For priority…


2017 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Quantifying Trade-Offs Among Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity, and Agricultural Returns in an Agriculturally Dominated Landscape Under Future Land‑Management Scenarios

Emma C. Underwood, Rachel A. Hutchinson, Joshua H. Viers, T. Rodd Kelsey, Trisha Distler, Jaymee Marty

This paper discusses and provides modeled estimates of the biodiversity and ecosystem service outcomes of three different future land use scenarios, compared to current land uses, in a cultivated landscape of the Central Valley in California. Specifically, it quantifies the impacts to greenhouse gas emissions,…