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

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science

Rewilding the San Joaquin Valley

40 years of science sets the course for the largest recovery of species in U.S. history

Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science

Research for Impact

How do we design scientific research to have impact in the world?

2021 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Shifting geographies of legal cannabis production in California

Christopher Dillis, Eric Biber, Hekia Bodwitch, Van Butsic, Jennifer Carah, Phoebe Parker-Shames, Michael Polson, and Theodore Grantham

This study used permitting and GIS data to explore geographic characteristics of legal cannabis farms in California. The study found two divergent paths of development - one characterized by numerous, smaller farms in rugged, tree-covered landscapes in historical cannabis producing regions (Humboldt, Mendocino, Trinity counties),…


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

Combining Occurrence and Habitat Suitability Data Improve Conservation Guidance for the Giant Kangaroo Rat

Alyssa E. Semerdjian, H. Scott Butterfield, Robert Stafford, Michael F. Westphal, William T. Bean

This paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management combines nearly 20 years of remote sensing, field/trapping, and modeling data to develop a new approach to the identification and prioritization of conservation land for the giant kangaroo rat. As a keystone species in the San Joaquin…


2021 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Data

Natural Communities Commonly Associated with Groundwater Version 2.0 (NCCAG 2.0)

Kirk Klausmeyer, Jeanette Howard, Melissa Rohde, Charlotte Stanley

The first step to sustainably manage groundwater dependent ecosystems (GDEs) is to identify where they are. The Nature Conservancy developed a statewide spatial database that provides locations of seeps and springs, wetlands, and vegetation likely to depend on groundwater. This database (version 2.0) is an…


2021 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Facilitation promotes plant invasions and indirect negative interactions

Christopher J. Lortie, Alessandro Filazzola, Charlotte Brown, Jacob Lucero, Mario Zuliani, Nargol Ghazian, Stephanie Haas, Malory Owen, H. Scott Butterfield, Emmeleia Nix, Michael Westphal

There are many pressures that influence the ecological capacity and health of drylands around the world. Shrubs are often a critical component of these systems and can function positively as foundation species through facilitation of other species. But, shrubs can also have negative and indirect effects…


2021 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Rewilding Agricultural Landscapes: A California Study in Rebalancing the Needs of People and Nature

H. Scott Butterfield, T. Rodd Kelsey, and Abigail K. Hart, Editors

As the world population grows, so does the demand for food, putting unprecedented pressure on agricultural lands. At the same time, climate change, soil degradation, and water scarcity mean that productivity of many of these lands is deteriorating. In many desert dryland regions, drinking wells…


2021 | Terrestrial | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative Phase 1 Restoration Wood Supply Assessment

Tom Baribault, Daniel Porter, Jessica Burton Desrocher, Douglas Larmour, Mark Rasmussen, Roy Anderson

The Tahoe-Central Sierra Initiative (TCSI) area has seen recent megafires and is highly developed, making the risk new of human-caused wildfire ignitions high. In this report, experts from Mason Bruce & Girard, The Beck Group and The Nature Conservancy assess quantities of…


2021 | Terrestrial | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Accelerating Forest Restoration: Stimulating a Forest-Restoration Economy and Rebuilding Resilience in California’s Fire-Adapted Forests

Daniel Porter, Robert Longcor

Forests of the Sierra Nevada and across the western U.S. are under unprecedented threat from catastrophic wildfire, insect outbreaks, and drought. In this briefing paper, which was developed as a collaboration between Bain and Company and The Nature Conservancy, we assess the challenges and…


2021 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund - 2021 RFP

Brynn Pewtherer

The Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund was established in 2000 in memory of Dr. Oren Pollak, a leading grassland ecologist and restoration pioneer, as well as an ardent champion and mentor for grassland ecology students. As The Nature Conservancy’s lead ecologist in California in the…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Nature-Based Climate Solutions: A Roadmap to Accelerate Action in California

Sydney J. Chamberlin, Michelle Passero, Ashley Conrad-Saydah, Tanushree Biswas, Charlotte K. Stanley

California’s natural and working lands – its forests, grasslands, wetlands, farmlands, rangeland, and urban green spaces – provide Californians with numerous environmental, social, and economic benefits, including greenhouse gas reductions (e.g., carbon sequestration). However, extreme heat events, droughts, floods, wildfires, development, and other anthropogenic impacts…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation of Mojave Desert springs and associated biota: status, threats, and policy opportunities

Sophie S. Parker, Andy Zdon, William T. Christian, Brian S. Cohen, Maura Palacios Mejia, Naomi S. Fraga, Emily E. Curd, Kiumars Edalati, Mark A. Renshaw

This paper presents results from the Mojave Desert Springs research project, and discusses why the conservation of these groundwater-dependent ecosystems is so critical to biodiversity. The authors present results of a comprehensive survey of Mojave Desert springs including hydrological and ecological observations, and an…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2020 Annual Report

Brynn Pewtherer

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…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

A meta-analysis contrasting active versus passive restoration practices in dryland agricultural ecosystems

M. Florencia Miguel, H. Scott Butterfield, Christopher J. Lortie

This meta-analysis provides a global synthesis of the which restoration practices – active vs. passive – are most successful at restoring plants, animals, and other ecosystem functions to dryland agricultural (grazing and farmlands) ecosystems, including the San Joaquin Valley of California where The Nature Conservancy…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

The utility of environmental DNA from sediment and water samples for recovery of observed plant and animal species from four Mojave Desert springs

Maura Palacios Mejia, Emily Curd, Kiumars Edalati, Mark A. Renshaw, Roy Dunn, Daniel Potter, Naomi Fraga, Jenna Moore, Justin Saiz, Robert Wayne, Sophie S. Parker

This paper presents results from the Mojave Desert Springs research project. The authors used an environmental DNA (eDNA) technique to assess biodiversity at four naturally occurring springs. They compared the effectiveness of detecting DNA in water and sediment with conventional field survey and…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Bridging the knowledge‐implementation gap between agency and academia: A case study of a graduate research experience

Aviv Karasov‐Olson, Alicia K. Bird, Amy C. Collins, Emily E. Graves, Julea A. Shaw, Eric F. Tymstra, T. Rodd Kelsey, Mark W. Schwartz

Conservation biology is particularly susceptible to the knowledge‐implementation gap where academic pursuits do not always meet the needs of practitioners. Providing future practitioners with relevant training and experiences as graduate students can help narrow this gap. An example of one such experience was a partnership…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Maps & Webmaps

Planting Stormwater Solutions

Brian Cohen, Kelsey Jessup, Sophie Parker, John Randall, Jill Sourial

Cities across Southern California are investing in new infrastructure to address the challenges of stormwater management. We promote the use of nature-based solutions to ensure projects both treat stormwater and yield multiple additional benefits. TNC’s spatial analyses, summarized in this poster, help prioritize where to site…


2020 | Terrestrial | Technology | Publications & Reports

Remote Property Monitoring at The Nature Conservancy in California

Ethan Inlander, Katie Andrews, Contributors: Jennifer Chin, Sue Pollock, Mike McFadden, Scott Hardage, Scott Butterfield, Tod Rubin

With this publication, TNC in California marks a major shift in its approach to conservation easement monitoring. At the crossroads of conservation, stewardship and technology lies remote property monitoring, an emerging practice that uses airborne/satellite imagery and a seamless web-based platform.  This solution to meeting…


2020 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Shaping land use change and ecosystem restoration in a water-stressed agricultural landscape to achieve multiple benefits

Benjamin P. Bryant, T R. Kelsey, Adrian L. Vogl, Stacey A. Wolny, Duncan J. MacEwan, Paul C. Selmants, Tanushree Biswas, H S. Butterfield

Irrigated agriculture has grown rapidly over the last 50 years, helping food production keep pace with population growth, but also leading to significant habitat and biodiversity loss globally. Now, in some regions, land degradation and overtaxed water resources mean historical production levels may need to…