The California Current is one of only four temperate upwelling systems in the world. Seasonal upwelling of nutrient-rich waters fuels a highly productive ecosystem, supporting biodiversity and fisheries that, along with coastal tourism, are a foundation of California’s economy.  

Yet California’s coasts and oceans are also under increasing threat. Relatively few fisheries are managed based on robust scientific assessments, and more needs to be done to avoid overfishing and reduce bycatch. Plastics and other pollutants are pervasive. Climate change compounds these challenges. Ocean chemistry is changing. Sea levels and temperatures are rising – threatening important resources, biodiversity, and human populations.

Fortunately, the coastal and ocean ecosystems of California are bolstered by a network of marine protected areas and some of the most science-based marine policies in the world. Conservancy scientists look to build on those foundations by applying science and technology to enhance resilience of marine resources in the face of emerging threats.

Fisheries

Wild capture fisheries supply food and jobs for hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Yet an… >>

Coastal Conservation

Almost half of the world’s human population lives in coastal areas, and associated coastal development has significantly degraded… >>

Science in Action

Terrestrial | Marine | Economics | Science

TNC and FEMA

How do we increase climate resilience in ways that work for people and nature?

Terrestrial | Marine | Planning

TNC and the U.S. Navy

How can we protect natural resource and coastal military assets from sea level rise?

2022 | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Using unoccupied aerial vehicles to map and monitor changes in emergent kelp canopy after an ecological regime shift

Vienna R. Saccomanno, Tom Bell, Camille Pawlak, Charlotte K. Stanley, Katherine C. Cavanaugh, Rietta Hohman, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, Kyle Cavanaugh, Abby Nickels, Waz Hewerdine, Corey Garza, Gary Fleener, Mary Gleason

Kelp forests are complex underwater habitats that provide valuable services for both people and nature. Despite their importance, increasingly severe stressors have resulted in declines in kelp forests in many regions including the North Coast of California. Given the significant and sustained loss of kelp…


2022 | Marine | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

The Business of Restoration: Examining the oyster reef restoration industry in the U.S. with recommendations for how conservation organizations can increase efficiencies and decrease costs to scale restoration efforts

Elliot Hall, Bryan DeAngelis

Oyster reefs are one of the most imperiled habitats on earth. However, current rates of restoration are too slow. We must radically increase the pace, scale, and impact of restoration to recover the abundance, resilience and benefits of these invaluable coastal ecosystems. Fortunately, incredible transformations…


2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Unlocking FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Funding for Coral Reef Restoration: A Feasibility Study in Maui, Hawaii

UC Santa Cruz (Austen E. Stovall, Michael W. Beck), The Nature Conservancy (Alyssa Mann, Tamaki Bieri), Radbridge/formerly Earth Economics (Johnny Mojica, Rowan Schmidt)

Climate change poses severe threats to coastal communities and the ecosystems on which they depend. Warming ocean temperatures increase the magnitude and frequency of storm and coral bleaching events, allowing less time for recovery amidst these threats. Coral reefs complex and stable structure protects against…


2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Prioritizing actions: spatial action maps for conservation

Heather Tallis, Joe Fargione, Edward Game, Rob McDonald, Leandro Baumgarten, Nirmal Bhagabati, Rane Cortez, Bronson Griscom, Jonathan Higgins, Christina M. Kennedy, Joe Kiesecker, Timm Kroeger, Trina Leberer, Jennifer McGowan, Lisa Mandle, Yuta J. Masuda, Scott Morrison, Sally Palmer, Rebecca Shirer, Priya Shyamsundar, Nicholas H.Wolff, and Hugh P. Possingham

Spatial analysis is a powerful tool in conservation planning. Yet it is often under-deployed as a means of elucidating which conservation actions may deliver the highest return on investment. This paper presents a framework for “spatial action mapping” and discusses how it can improve conservation…


2022 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Restoring shellfish reefs: Global guidelines for practitioners and scientists

James A. Fitzsimons, Simon Branigan, Chris L. Gillies, Robert D. Brumbaugh, Jun Cheng, Bryan M. DeAngelis, Laura Geselbracht, Boze Hancock, Andrew Jeffs, Tein McDonald, Ian M.McLeod, Bernadette Pogoda, Seth J. Theuerkauf, Marine Thomas, Stephanie Westby, Philine S.E. zu Ermgassen

Widespread global declines in shellfish reefs have led to growing interest in their restoration and protection. With restoration projects now occurring on four continents and in at least seven countries, this project developed global restoration guidelines for these ecosystems, developed based on experience over the…


2022 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

The benefits of bivalve reef restoration: A global synthesis of underrepresented species

Philine S. E. zu Ermgassen, Ruth H. Thurstan, Jorge Corrales, Heidi Alleway, Alvar Carranza, Norbert Dankers, Bryan DeAngelis, Boze Hancock, Flora Kent, Ian McLeod, Bernadette Pogoda, Qing Liu, William G. Sanderson

Bivalve habitat restoration is growing in geographic extent and scale globally. Stakeholders and funders are increasingly drawn to shellfish restoration for the many ecosystem services these habitats provide. Ecosystem services, however, remain largely unquantified or even undescribed for the majority of species targeted for restoration.…


2022 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Estimating and Applying Fish and Invertebrate Density and Production Enhancement from Seagrass, Salt Marsh Edge, and Oyster Reef Nursery Habitats in the Gulf of Mexico

Philine S. E. zu Ermgassen, Bryan DeAngelis, , Jonathan R. Gair, Sophus zu Ermgassen, Ronald Baker, Andre Daniels, Timothy C. MacDonald, Kara Meckley, Sean Powers, Marta Ribera, Lawrence P. Rozas & Jonathan H. Grabowski

Seagrasses, oyster reefs, and salt marshes are critical coastal habitats that support high densities of juvenile fish and invertebrates. Yet which species are enhanced through these nursery habitats, and to what degree, remains largely unquantified. Quantitative estimates of production enhancement within specific embayments can be…


2022 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Social Factors Key to Landscape-Scale Coastal Restoration: Lessons Learned from Three U.S. Case Studies

Bryan M. DeAngelis, Ariana E. Sutton-Grier, Allison Colden, Katie K. Arkema, Christopher J. Baillie, Richard O. Bennett, Jeff Benoit, Seth Blitch, Anthony Chatwin, Alyssa Dausman, Rachel K. Gittman, Holly S. Greening, Jessica R. Henkel, Rachel Houge, Ron Howard, A. Randall Hughes, Jeremy Lowe, StevenB. Scyphers, Edward T. Sherwood, Stephanie Westby, Jonathan H. Grabowski

This study examined three case studies involving large-scale and long-term restoration efforts including the seagrass restoration effort in Tampa Bay, Florida, the oyster restoration effort in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia, and the tidal marsh restoration effort in San Francisco Bay, California.The studyfocused…


2022 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Restoration Guidelines for Shellfish Reefs

J. Fitzsimons, S. Branigan, R.D. Brumbaugh , T. McDonald, and zu Ermgassen, P.S.E. (eds), Bryan M. DeAngelis, chapter author

The purpose of this guide is to provide guidance in decision-making for establishing shellfish reef restoration projects and examples of different approaches undertaken byexperienced practitioners in a variety of geographic, environmental and social settings. This publication is intended to provide foundational information to serve as…


2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Maps & Webmaps

The Mitigation Wizard

Carrie Schloss, Liz O’Donoghue, Dan Rademacher, Patric Huber, Jodi McGraw, Kim Becerril, Janine Knapp

Every year, infrastructure agencies and developers spend hundreds of millions of dollars to mitigate for impacts to sensitive species and habitats. These mitigation sites are often piecemeal projects, which can result in islands of mitigation. Regional advance mitigation programs seek to change this paradigm so…


2022 | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Kelp Restoration Guidebook: Lessons Learned from Kelp Restoration Projects Around the World

Aaron M. Eger (University of New South Wales), Cayne Layton (University of Tasmania), Tristin A. McHugh (TNC), Mary Gleason, and Norah Eddy (TNC)

Kelp forests around the world are experiencing significant declines due to a variety of factors, driving the need for more active kelp restoration efforts. The science and practice of kelp forest restoration is still in its infancy and there remains a wealth of knowledge to…


2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

The Guidebook for FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grants: Promoting Nature-Based Mitigation Through FEMA Mitigation Grants

The Nature Conservancy, AECOM

With increase in devasting storms and wildfires due to climate change, we need solutions to help mitigate the impact. Traditionally, “gray” or “hard” infrastructure solutions that rely on engineering projects using concrete and steel have dominated efforts to manage risk and mitigate hazard impacts…


2022 | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Reducing the Risk of Mortality to Whales

Jessica Morten, Ryan Freedman, Jeffrey D. Adams, Jono Wilson, Aliya Rubinstein, Sean Hastings

The great whales, including, blue, humpback, and fin whales are threatened by collisions with ocean going vessels. Global shipping traffic is projected to increase up to 12-fold in coming decades. Slowing vessels down reduces the risk of whale collisions and mortality. Here, the authors examined…


2022 | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Lost Fishing Gear is a Key Contributor to Ocean Plastic Pollution

Brandon Kuczenski, Camila Vargas Poulsen, Eric L. Gilman, Michael Musyl, Roland Geyer, Jono Wilson

More than 4.5 million fishing vessels ply ocean waters each year, setting countless nets, traps, hooks and lines. Much of this fishing gear is made of plastic components and a significant fraction of it is lost in the ocean each year, causing irreparable harm to…


2022 | Marine | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Use of Simple Indicators to Improve Fisheries Management

William J. Harford, Ricardo Amoroso, Richard J. Bell, Matias Caillaux, Jason Marc Cope, Dawn Dougherty, Natalie Anne Dowling, Frank Hurd, Serena Lomonico, Josh Nowlis, Dan Ovando, Ana M. Parma, Jeremy D. Prince, Jono R. Wilson

Overfishing threatens the health of ocean ecosystems. Effective fisheries management is key to minimizing ocean impacts and improving outcomes for millions of fishing dependent people throughout the world. Most fisheries, however, lack sufficient data for managers to perform quantitative stock assessments and inform management regulations.…


2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Transforming Palmyra Atoll to native-tree dominance will increase net carbon storage and reduce dissolved organic carbon reef runoff

Kate Longley-Wood, Mary Engels , Kevin D. Lafferty, John P. McLaughlin, Alex Wegmann

Native forests on tropical islands have been displaced by non-native species, leading to calls for their transformation. Simultaneously, there is increasing recognition that tropical forests can help sequester carbon that would otherwise enter the atmosphere. At Palmyra Atoll, efforts are underway to transform the rainforest…


2022 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2021 Annual Report

Brynn Pewtherer, Scott Morrison

The Nature Conservancy deploys science to help overcome major challenges facing people and nature. In today’s fast-paced world, turning threats to nature into opportunities for conservation requires agility. The Conservation Science Catalyst Fund enables our science team to mobilize quickly — and produce the information…


2021 | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve Invasive Plant Species Action Plan

Moses Katkowski, H. Scott Butterfield, John Knapp, Kelly Easterday, Laura Riege, Mark Reynolds

This 5-year action plan describes the vision for invasive plant species mapping, monitoring and treatment at the Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve in Sourthern California. The plan is adaptive and will updated as new species, management approaches (including new and emerging technologies), and monitoring results…


2021 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Disease-driven mass mortality event leads to widespread extirpation and variable recovery potential of a marine predator across the eastern Pacific

S. L. Hamilton, V. R. Saccomanno, W. N. Heady, A. L. Gehman, S. I. Lonhart, R. Beas-Luna, F. T. Francis, L. Lee, L. Rogers-Bennett, A. K. Salomon and S. A. Gravem

The sunflower sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) is an important mesopredator in kelp forest ecosystems that was devastated by the outbreak of sea star wasting disease (SSWD). This study quantifies how SSWD impacted this iconic animal across its range and documents that the outbreak occurred more…