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?

2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

An urban biodiversity assessment framework that combines an urban habitat classification scheme and citizen science data

Enjie Li, Sophie S. Parker, Gregory B. Pauly, John M. Randall, Brian V. Brown, Brian S. Cohen

This paper presents a new way to evaluate urban biogeography—patterns in the distribution of species across urban areas. The authors developed a hierarchical, quantitative method for classifying urban lands into different habitat types, and then used citizen-science data to assess each type’s biodiversity. This approach…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Restoring Forests through Partnership: Lessons Learned from the French Meadows Project

David Edelson, Angel Hertslet

There is an urgent need to increase the pace and scale of forest restoration in the Sierra Nevada and throughout the West to reduce the risk of high-severity wildfire and promote more resilient forest conditions. This report, based on The Nature Conservancy's experience with the…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Maps & Webmaps

Planning for connectivity implementation in present-day California and for a changing future: a 3-D web-tour

Carrie Schloss, Dick Cameron, Nathaniel Rindlaub, Connor Shank

This interactive, web-based tour provides an accessible introduction to The Nature Conservancy’s analysis of wildlife movement routes for climate adaptation in California. Viewing these pathways in three-dimensional landscapes highlights the importance of elevation gradients, stream and river valleys, and topographic relief for species moving in…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Circuit-theory applications to connectivity science and conservation

Brett G. Dickson, Christine M. Albano, Ranjan Anantharaman, Paul Beier, Joe Fargione, Tabitha A. Graves, Miranda E. Gray, Kimberly R. Hall, Josh J. Lawler, Paul B. Leonard, Caitlin E. Littlefield, Meredith L. McClure, John Novembre, Carrie A. Schloss, Nathan H. Schumaker, Viral B. Shah, David M. Theobald

The authors explore the impact that Brad McRae’s development of circuit theory and the associated software, Circuitscape, have had, and continue to have, on connectivity science and conservation. The circuit-theory approach to connectivity modeling offers an alternative to least-cost paths by quantifying movement potential across…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Making habitat connectivity a reality

Annika T. H. Keeley, Galli Basson, D. Richard Cameron, Nicole E. Heller, Patrick R. Huber, Carrie A. Schloss, James H. Thorne, Adina M. Merenlender

Connectivity conservation must move more rapidly from planning to implementation. We provide an evidence‐based solution composed of key elements for successful on‐the‐ground connectivity implementation. We identified the social processes necessary to advance habitat connectivity for biodiversity conservation and resilient landscapes under climate change.


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

The benefits of crops and field management practices to wintering waterbirds in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta of California

W. David Shuford, Matthew E. Reiter, Kristin A. Sesser, Catherine M. Hickey, Gregory H. Golet

Agricultural intensification has been a major factor in the loss of global biodiversity. Even so, agricultural landscapes provide important habitat for many bird species, particularly in the Central Valley of California, where >90% of wetlands have been lost. This study demonstrates that wetlands, and certain…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Habitat restoration opportunities, climatic niche contraction, and conservation biogeography in California's San Joaquin Desert

Joseph A. E. Stewart, H. Scott Butterfield, Jonathan Q. Richmond, David J. Germano, Michael F. Westphal, Erin N. Tennant, Barry Sinervo

Due to limited water resources, there is a global trend toward the retirement of farmland, especially in the San Joaquin Valley in California where the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act could necessitate the retirement of more than 500,000 acres. This paper helps identify where, across the…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

New concepts, models, and assessments of climate-wise connectivity

Annika T H Keeley, David D Ackerly, D Richard Cameron, Nicole E Heller, Patrick R Huber, Carrie A Schloss, James H Thorne, Adina M Merenlender

As climate change impacts wildlife and plants, species may need to access new habitats. Various approaches exist to plan to climate-driven habitat connectivity needs. We summarize the literature of connectivity planning that accounts for climate change, and suggest guidance for preferred approaches given various objectives.


2019 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

An indicator‐based decision framework for the northern California red abalone fishery

William J. Harford, Natalie A. Dowling, Jeremy D. Prince, Frank Hurd, Lyall Bellquist, Jack Likins, Jono R. Wilson

Among abalone species that were once harvested along the California coastline, red abalone (Haliotis rufescens) supports the remaining recreational fishery. To support development of a red abalone fishery management plan, non‐governmental organizations have initiated expanded data collection and developed fishery management strategies. In this paper,…


2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Impact of solar and wind development on conservation values in the Mojave Desert

Sophie S. Parker, Brian S. Cohen, James Moore

This paper discusses changes in the conservation value of lands in the California Mojave Desert caused by renewable energy development that occurred between 2009 and 2016. The authors remotely assess the impacts of land use change caused by solar and wind installations in two areas…


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…