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

Marine | Planning | Science

Saving Tomorrow’s Coast

Can California protect its iconic coastline as sea levels rise?

Marine | Planning | Science

FishPath

How can we help small-scale and data-limited fisheries manage their resource sustainably?

2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

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, produced for the Conservancy by Energy+Environmental Economics, analyzes an alternative transmission planning framework (Energy-Only) using the San Joaquin Valley as a case…


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,…


2017 | Terrestrial | Planning | Maps & Webmaps

The Bay Area Greenprint

Carrie Schloss, Elizabeth O'Donoghue, Christa Cassidy, Tom Robinson, Serena Unger, Adam Garcia, Dan Rademacher

The Bay Area Greenprint tool provides land use and infrastructure agencies, consultants, and advocates easily accessible, interpretable, and scientifically robust information on habitat and ecosystem service values in the Bay Area. Currently, natural and agricultural lands are not considered early enough in planning processes leading…


2017 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Solar Energy Development and Regional Conservation Planning

D.R. Cameron, L. Crane, S.S. Parker, J.M. Randall

This book chapter discusses how California's greenhouse gas emission reduction goals spurred solar development in the Mojave Desert—development that could have negative impacts if poorly sited. The authors discuss their wall-to-wall assessment of conservation values across the 32-million-acre Mojave Desert, and their estimation of…


2017 | Freshwater | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

A Global Synthesis of Managing Groundwater Dependent Ecosystems Under Sustainable Groundwater Policy

Melissa M. Rohde, Ray Froend, Jeanette Howard

Groundwater is a vital water supply worldwide for people and nature. However, species and ecosystems that depend on groundwater for some or all of their water needs, known as groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs), are increasingly becoming threatened worldwide. This paper provides an overview of how…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Population and habitat objectives for avian conservation in California’s Central Valley riparian ecosystems

Kristen E. Dybala, Neil Clipperton, Thomas Gardali, Gregory H. Golet, Rodd Kelsey, Stefan Lorenzato, Ron Melcer, Jr., Nathaniel E. Seavy, Joseph G. Silveira

The Conservancy and partners are working to establish riparian ecosystems that provide sufficient habitat to support genetically robust, self-sustaining, and resilient bird populations in California's Central Valley. In this study, researchers selected 12 riparian landbird focal species as indicators of riparian ecosystem health and are…


2017 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

A General Framework for Setting Quantitative Population Objectives for Wildlife Conservation

Kristen E. Dybala, Neil Clipperton, Thomas Gardali, Gregory H. Golet, Rodd Kelsey, Stefan Lorenzato, Ronald Melcer, Jr., Nathaniel Seavy, Joseph G. Silveira, Gregory S. Yarris

Quantitative population objectives are necessary to achieve conservation goals of secure or robust wildlife populations, however, existing methods for setting them often require extensive species population viability data, which are often unavailable. This paper presents an alternative method that uses key milestones a population would be expected to…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Informing watershed planning and policy in the Truckee River basin through stakeholder engagement, scenario development, and impact evaluation

Kristen Wilson, Erik Lowe, Stacey Wolny, Barry Nickel , Rodd Kelsey

This study demonstrates how science-based planning with stakeholder input can improve and direct conservation investments across existing state and jurisdictional boundaries. The authors set out to help direct the type, amount, and location of conservaiton investments in the Truckee River watershed in the Sierra Nevada…


2017 | Freshwater | Planning | Publications & Reports

Water for nature: What we can do today to help California’s rivers, streams and wetlands

Burns, C.E., A. Hoss, N. Smith, K. Klausmeyer, K. Fesenmeyer, A. Campbell, J. Carah, E. Forsburg, S. Heard, J.K. Howard, L. Hulette, S. Liu, P. Spraycar, B. Stranko, G. Werner, D. Wordham

This report identifies a set of strategies that will have the greatest impact on environmental flows, and to provide a resource for conservation organizations, resource agencies, and other stakeholders in California that may help create the conditions that allow freshwater species to thrive well into…


2016 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Spatially explicit analysis of field inventories for national forest carbon monitoring

David C. Marvin, Gregory P. Asner

Policies that incentivize forest conservation by monetizing forest carbon ultimately depend on the accuracy of carbon stock estimates. Often, these estimates are based on field inventory sampling. In this paper, the authors assessed the accuracy of two common field-plot carbon sampling approaches when creating large-scale…


2016 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Pajaro Compass

A Network for Voluntary Conservation

The Pajaro Compass—with its interactive maps and tools—supports a group of over 50 stakeholders representing conservation, agriculture, transportation, government and community interests who together share a common conservation vision for the Pajaro River watershed in central California. It provides a gateway for landowners and…


2016 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Future land-use related water demand in California

Tamara S Wilson, Benjamin M Sleeter, D Richard Cameron

This publication discusses how land use changes in Mediterranean California will drive changes in water use between urban uses and annual vs. perennial crops. The authors used a state-and-transition simulation model to project business-as-usual trends into the future for developed (municipal and industrial) and agricultural…


2016 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Designing virtuous socio-ecological cycles for biodiversity conservation

Scott A. Morrison

Conservationists should assume that people don’t care about biodiversity. By doing so, they would be especially motivated to figure out what people do care about, and how conservation might be able to align with those interests. Focusing on what it is about nature or its…


2016 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Climate Action Through Conservation Project

The Nature Conservancy and Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District

The Climate Action Through Conservation project provides a way for local governments, land managers, and planners to understand the links between climate benefits and conservation values and incorporate that knowledge into decisions about land use and land management. This report presents the result: a new…


2015 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Conservation Planning for Offsetting the Impacts of Development: A Case Study of Biodiversity and Renewable Energy in the Mojave Desert

Jason Kreitler, Carrie A. Schloss, Oliver Soong, Lee Hannah, Frank W. Davis

In the past, mitigation to address impacts from development have lacked a regional planning perspective resulting in efficient design across a set of sites for a suite of impacts. This paper introduces a tool that uses spatial prioritization to identify optimized mitigation opportunities for solar…