In California, a day’s drive can take a visitor from record-setting desert heat to glaciated peaks to temperate rainforests with the world’s tallest trees. This astounding climatic and landscape diversity has helped create a biodiversity hotspot. California is also an economic hotspot – the 6th largest economy in the world – and is home to nearly 40 million people. The demand for land for new development and farms, along with accelerating climate change, puts tremendous stress on ecosystems, and the benefits they provide.

The state’s legacy of conservation has created a network of natural and working lands that benefit people by supplying clean water, capturing carbon, and directly contributing to the state’s economic and cultural vitality through recreation, tourism, and agricultural production. Conservancy scientists work across the spectrum of ecosystem types and human land uses, to advance conservation goals that also contribute to the well-being of people in those places.

Wildlands

Nearly half of California is protected in some land status that prevents most kinds of intensive human land… >>

Harvested Landscapes

A third of California is privately-owned forestland, woodland or grassland. From redwood forests on the north coast to… >>

Cultivated Landscapes

California is the leading agricultural state in the country and it’s agriculture generates more than $45 billion annually.… >>

Urban Areas and Infrastructure

With California’s population on track to reach 50 million people, the demand for energy, water, and land will… >>

Science in Action

Terrestrial | Science

Invasive Ant Removal

How can we eliminate a large-scale infestation of invasive ants – and how would we know when we have?

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Economics | Science

Dynamic Conservation

In an era of rapid global change, how can conservationists provide habitat where and when nature needs it most?

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

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2017 Annual Report

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…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecosystem management and land conservation can substantially contribute to California’s climate mitigation goals

D. Richard Cameron, David C. Marvin, Jonathan M. Remucal, Michelle C. Passero

Combatting climate change will require using all available tools, especially those that contribute to other societal and economic goals, such as natural resource protection and energy security. Conserving and managing natural and agricultural lands to retain and absorb greenhouse gasses (GHGs) are tools that have…


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 | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Testing a Remote Sensing-Based Interactive System for Monitoring Grazed Conservation Lands

Lawrence D. Ford, H. Scott Butterfield, Pete A. Van Hoorn, Kasey B. Allen, Ethan Inlander, Carrie Schloss, Falk Schuetzenmeister, Miriam Tsalyuk

The Nature Conservancy developed RDMapper, a web-based tool that uses satellite-based productivity estimates, rainfall records, and compliance history to identify easement properties at risk of being below the required level of RDM. TNC successfully used RDMapper in 2015 and 2016 to predict compliance across ~47,000…


2017 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Novel fine-scale aerial mapping approach quantifies grassland weed cover dynamics and response to management

Carolyn M. Malmstrom, H. Scott Butterfield, Laura Planck, Christopher W. Long, Valerie T. Eviner

Invasive weeds threaten the biodiversity and forage productivity of grasslands worldwide. However, management of these weeds is constrained by the practical difficulty of detecting small-scale infestations across large landscapes and by limits in understanding of landscape-scale invasion dynamics. This study demonstrates the application of a…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Dynamic conservation for migratory species

Mark D. Reynolds, Brian L. Sullivan, Eric Hallstein, Sandra Matsumoto, Steve Kelling, Matthew Merrifield, Daniel Fink, Alison Johnston, Wesley M. Hochachka, Nicholas E. Bruns, Matthew E. Reiter, Sam Veloz, Catherine Hickey, Nathan Elliott, Leslie Martin, John W. Fitzpatrick, Paul Spraycar, Gregory H. Golet, Christopher McColl, Scott A. Morrison

What if instead of buying habitat, conservationists could rent it when and where nature needs it most? The Conservancy is using predictive models of shorebird movements, data from the citizen science program eBird, and NASA satellite wetland habitat data to create a habitat marketplace of…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

A bustle in the hedgerow: Woody field margins boost on farm avian diversity and abundance in an intensive agricultural landscape

Sacha K. Heath, Candan U. Soykan, Karen L. Velas, Rodd Kelsey, Sara M. Kross

This paper discusses the potential for on-farm habitats along field margins as a conservation strategy within intensively cultivated landscapes. Specifically, the study examined the effects of woody field margin vegetation on winter and breeding season avian communities within diverse farm fields of California's Central Valley,…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Spatially biased dispersal of acorns by a scatter-hoarding corvid may accelerate passive restoration of oak habitat on California’s largest island

Mario B. Pesendorfer, T. Scott Sillett, Scott A. Morrison

An individual jay can cache thousands of oak seeds per year, and in so doing provide oaks a means to disperse long distances. This ecological process can be especially important in restoration of degraded habitats – like Santa Cruz Island, CA, which experienced over 150…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Equipping the 22nd-Century Historical Ecologist

Scott A. Morrison, T. Scott Sillett, W. Chris Funk, Cameron K. Ghalambor, Torben C. Rick

Historical records can provide information critical for conservation. Yet, societal investment in collection and curation of museum archives is widely recognized to be insufficient, which is a trend that disadvantages conservationists today and into the future. In response, this essay calls for a crowdsourced initiative,…


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 | Science | Publications & Reports

Partial support for the central–marginal hypothesis within a population: reduced genetic diversity but not increased differentiation at the range edge of an island endemic bird

K.M. Langin, T.S. Sillett, W.C. Funk, S.A. Morrison, C.K. Ghalambor

Genetic diversity is an important target in biodiversity conservation. Understanding how it tends to be distributed across ranges of species can improve conservation planning. This paper examines patterns of genetic diversity of a species with a highly restricted and geologically-bounded range, the Island Scrub-Jay.


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 | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Managing consequences of climate-driven species redistribution requires integration of ecology, conservation and social science

Timothy C. Bonebrake, Christopher J. Brown, Johann D. Bell, Julia L. Blanchard, Alienor Chauvenet, Curtis Champion, I-Ching Chen, Timothy D. Clark, Robert K. Colwell, Finn Danielsen, Anthony I. Dell, Jennifer M. Donelson, Birgitta Eveng°ard, Simon Ferrier, Stewart Frusher, Raquel A. Garcia, Roger B. Griffis, Alistair J. Hobday, Marta A. Jarzyna, Emma Lee, Jonathan Lenoir, Hlif Linnetved, Victoria Y. Martin, Phillipa C. McCormack, Jan McDonald, Eve McDonald-Madden, Nicola Mitchell, Tero Mustonen, John M. Pandolfi, Nathalie Pettorelli, Hugh Possingham, Peter Pulsifer, Mark Reynolds , Brett R. Scheffers, Cascade J. B. Sorte, Jan M. Strugnell, Mao-Ning Tuanmu, Samantha Twiname, Adriana Verg´es, Cecilia Villanueva, Erik Wapstra, Thomas Wernberg , Gretta T. Pecl

Climate change is driving the largest global redistribution of the planet’s species since the ice age. Species redistributions present challenges for human well-being, environmental management and sustainable development. Species redistribution also poses new questions for the study of ecosystems, conservation science and human societies that…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Persistence of historical population structure in an endangered species despite near-complete biome conversion in California’s San Joaquin Desert

Jonathan Q. Richmond, Dustin A. Wood, Michael F. Westphal, Amy G. Vandergast, Adam D. Leache, Lawrence R. Saslaw, H. Scott Butterfield, Robert N. Fisher

This paper uses novel genetic approaches to document how land conversion in the San Joaquin Desert has affected population connectivity and relatedness in the endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard. The authors use these data to identify conservation areas where species could exist now and in the…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Bill morphology and neutral genetic structure both predict variation in acoustic signals within a bird population

Kathryn M. Langin, T. Scott Sillett, Scott A. Morrison, Cameron K. Ghalambor

Island Scrub-Jays, a species restricted to 250 km2 Santa Cruz Island, CA, have different bill forms depending on whether they occupy oak or pine dominated habitat, a pattern that may be associated with foraging efficiency. This paper shows how vocalizations important for pair bonding also…