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

Marine | Technology | Science

Closing the Abalone Data Gap

Can putting technology in the hands of citizen scientists transform how abalone are managed?

Marine | Planning | Science

Saving Tomorrow’s Coast

Can California protect its iconic coastline as sea levels rise?

2016 | Marine | Publications & Reports

Marine and Coastal Impacts of Ocean Desalination in California

Szeptycki, L., E. Hartge, N. Ajami, A. Erickson, W. N. Heady, L. LaFeir, B. Meister, L. Verdone, J.R. Koseff

The drought in California rekindled interest in ocean desalination as a new and reliable water supply option; yet desalination is expensive, energy intensive, potentially emits greenhouse gases, and has adverse impacts on coastal and marine ecosystems. This report is a synthesis of an Uncommon…


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…


2015 | Freshwater | Marine | Publications & Reports

Assessing California’s bar-built estuaries using the California Rapid Assessment Method

Walter Heady, Ross P. Clark, Kevin O’Connor, Cara Clark, Charles Endris, Sierra Ryan, Sara Stoner-Duncan

Connecting marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, bar-built estuaries are complex and dynamic coastal confluences that provide a great diversity of habitat and ecosystem services. The wetland habitats of bar-built estuaries are threatened by development, pollution, and climate related changes including diminished streamflows and sea…


2015 | Marine | Science | Video

Science for Nature and People Partnership: Data-Limited Fisheries Working Group

The Nature Conservancy, Jono Wilson

There are thousands of fisheries around the globe that lack the infrastructure, capacity, resources and management techniques to perform conventional assessments and management. We know that fisheries that get measured—that have stock assessments performed—are typically better managed, including increased regulation and enforcement. Conversely, when fisheries…


2015 | Marine | Planning | Maps & Webmaps

Coastal Resilience Monterey webmap

Brian Cohen

The Coastal Resilience Network supports a community of practitioners who are applying nature-based solutions to coastal hazard and climate adaptation issues. As a member of this Network, the Conservancy is working with scientists, geomorphologists, urban and environmental economists, regional conservation partners, and local stakeholders…


2015 | Marine | Planning | Maps & Webmaps

Coastal Resilience Ventura Web Map

Brian Cohen

As a member of the Coastal Resilience Network, the Conservancy is leading Coastal Resilience Ventura. Coast Resilience Ventura is a partnership that provides science and decision-support tools to help conservation practitioners, planners and policymakers address the impact of climate change. Through this effort, the…


2015 | Freshwater | Marine | Publications & Reports

Aligning Natural Resource Conservation and Flood Hazard Mitigation in California

Juliano Calil, Michael W. Beck, Mary Gleason, Matthew Merrifield, Kirk Klausmeyer, Sarah Newkirk

The U.S. National Flood Insurance Program has paid out more than $38 billion in claims since its inception in 1968, more than a third of which has gone to the 1% of policies that experienced multiple, repetitive losses. During the same period, the loss of…


2015 | Freshwater | Marine | Publications & Reports

Climate mediates hypoxic stress on fish diversity and nursery function at the land–sea interface

Brent B. Hughes, Matthew D. Levey, Monique C. Fountain, Aaron B. Carlisle, Francisco P. Chavez, Mary G. Gleason

This comprehensive study of a major California estuary documents the links between nutrient runoff from coastal land use, the health of the estuary as a nursery for young fish, and the abundance of fish in an offshore commercial fishery. The researchers assembled long-term data sets…


2015 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Recommendations for improving recovery criteria under the US Endangered Species Act

Doak, D.F., G.K. Himes Boor, V.J. Bakker, W.F. Morris, A. Louthan, S.A. Morrison, A. Stanley, L. Crowder

One of the key components of a recovery plan for a threatened or endangered species in the United States is the set of recovery criteria that will be used to evaluate progress in abating the threats to the species and reducing its risk of extinction.…


2014 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

A framework for conservation in a human-dominated world

Scott Morrison

Recognition of the magnitude of human impacts on the planet and the urgent need to increase the pace and scale of conservation has led many conservation organizations to emphasize conservation for both “people and nature.” This article proposes a framework that clarifies what that relationship…


2014 | Freshwater | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

An Inventory and Classification of U.S. West Coast Estuaries

Walter N. Heady, Kevin O'Connor, Jennifer Kassakian , Kate Doiron, Charles Endris, Daniel Hudgens, Ross P. Clark , Jena Carter , Mary G. Gleason

Estuaries are some of the most productive ecosystems on the planet. This inventory classifies more than 600 coastal confluences on the West Coast of the United States. Each estuary was classified using the federal Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS). A spatial database of…


2014 | Freshwater | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Nursery Functions of U.S. West Coast Estuaries: The State of Knowledge for Juveniles of Focal Invertebrate and Fish Species

Brent B. Hughes, Matthew D. Levey, Jennifer A. Brown, Monique C. Fountain, Aaron B. Carlisle, Steven Y. Litvin, Correigh M. Greene, Walter N. Heady, Mary G. Gleason

Estuaries support significant biodiversity and important ecosystem functions such as providing rearing habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrates. This report synthesizes the scientific literature and geospatial data on the nursery requirements of fifteen species of commercial, cultural, and conservation concern and highlights the potential nursery role…


2013 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

Biodiversity in a changing climate: a synthesis of current and projected trends in the US

Michelle D Staudinger, Shawn L Carter, Molly S Cross, Natalie S Dubois, J Emmett Duffy, Carolyn Enquist, Roger Griffis, Jessica J Hellmann, Joshua J Lawler, John O'Leary, Scott A Morrison, Lesley Sneddon, Bruce A Stein, Laura M Thompson, Woody Turner

This paper synthesizes research pertaining to climate change impacts on biodiversity, reviewed by the biodiversity technical working group of the 2014 National Climate Assessment. The paper focuses on research published since the 2009 NCA. 


2013 | Marine | Publications & Reports

A Transactional and Collaborative Approach to Reducing Effects of Bottom Trawling

Gleason M, Feller EM, Merrifield M, Copps S, Fujita R, Bell M, Rienecke S, Cook C

On the Central Coast of California, The Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund, local fishers and local, state, and federal authorities worked collaboratively to protect large areas of the seafloor from bottom trawling for groundfish while addressing economic impacts of trawl closures. This paper aims to…


2013 | Marine | Planning | Publications & Reports

The role of science in supporting marine protected area network planning and design in California

Emily Saarman, Mary Gleason, John Ugoretz, Satie Airamé, Mark Carr, Evan Fox, Adam Frimodig, Tom Mason, Jason Vasques

This paper explores four key conditions that supported the successful integration of science into the Marine Protected Area network planning effort in California. The redesigned statewide network of MPAs generally reflects the successful integration of science and science-based MPA design guidelines into a public policy…