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

Island Fox

How do we bring the endemic island fox back from the brink of extinction?

Terrestrial | Planning | Science

Connectivity Roadmap

Can we identify areas where nature will need to migrate in response to climate change?

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 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

The dark side of facilitation: native shrubs facilitate exotic annuals more strongly than native annuals

Jacob E. Lucero, Taylor Noble, Stephanie Haas, Michael Westphal, H. Scott Butterfield, Christopher J. Lortie

Previous work at the Carrizo Plain by this team in 2018 showed that native shrubs facilitated endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard populations, and should be considered part of plans for habitat restoration in the San Joaquin Valley. This paper shows that shrubs have a dark…


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 | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Globally important islands where eradicating invasive mammals will benefit highly threatened vertebrates

Holmes ND, Spatz DR, Oppel S, Tershy B, Croll DA, et al.

Restoring islands by eradicating damaging, non-native invasive mammals such as rats, cats, goats, and pigs has repeatedly proven to be a high impact conservation action. New research published in PLOS ONE shows this conservation action can have a major contribution towards stemming the global extinction…


2019 | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Future Directions in Conservation Research on Petrels and Shearwaters

Rodríguez A, Arcos JM, Bretagnolle V, Dias MP, Holmes ND, Louzao M, Provencher J, Raine AF, Ramírez F, Rodríguez B, Ronconi RA, Taylor RS, Bonnaud E, Borrelle SB, Cortés V, Descamps S, Friesen VL, Genovart M, Hedd A, Hodum P, Humphries G, Le Corre M, Lebarbenchon C, Martin R, Melvin EF, Montevecchi WA, Pinet P, Pollet IL, Ramos R, Russell JC, Ryan PG, Sanz-Aguilar A, Spatz DR, Travers M, Votier SC, Wanless RM, Woehler E, Chiaradia A

Seabirds are amongst the most engaged species on our planet. Among these are petrels and shearwaters: species characterized by long ocean journeys for migration and feeding, and a dependence on islands to safely breed and raise young. This dual lifestyle places them at risk from…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Clarifying Effects of Environmental Protections on Freshwater Flows to—and Water Exports from—the San Francisco Bay Estuary

Gregory J. Reis, Jeanette K. Howard, Jonathan A. Rosenfield

For years the narrative of the San Francisco Bay Delta has been driven by the contention that water use by agriculture was being limited by environmental regulation. Analyzing long-term trends regarding factors governing water exports in the Delta, researchers from The Bay Institute, The Nature…


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 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Wildfires and Forest Resilience: the case for ecological forestry in the Sierra Nevada

Rodd Kelsey

Forests of the Sierra Nevada and across the western U.S. are experiencing an unprecedented increase in the size and severity of wildfire along with widespread tree mortality due to drought and insect outbreaks. These developments not only threaten lives and communities but also seriously compromise…


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 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Organic amendment additions to rangelands: A meta‐analysis of multiple ecosystem outcomes

Kelly Gravuer, Sasha Gennet, Heather L. Throop

Interest in land application of organic amendments—such as biosolids, composts, and manures—is growing among landowners, managers, and climate policy leaders due to their potential to increase soil carbon and help mitigate climate change, as well as to support soil health and regenerative agriculture. While organic…


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

Conservation Science Catalyst Fund - 2018 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…


2018 | Terrestrial | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

A test of desert shrub facilitation via radiotelemetric monitoring of a diurnal lizard

Michael F. Westphal, Taylor Noble, Harry Scott Butterfield, Christopher J. Lortie

Shrubs can play a key role in the structure of desert communities and can function as foundation species. Understanding desert shrub ecology is therefore an important task in desert conservation. In this study, the authors used radiotelemetry (technology used to track animals from a distance)…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Blogs

The Promise of eDNA: A New Kind of Fieldwork to Guide Conservation

Sophie Parker

This blog post discusses how environmental DNA or “eDNA” methods can be used by conservation biologists. These methods rely on the premise that DNA is shed by organisms through normal, everyday activity. DNA collected in the field is compared with known specimens to determine what…


2018 | Terrestrial | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Toward a Carbon Neutral California: Economic and Climate Benefits of Land Use Interventions

David C. Marvin, Dick Cameron, Erik Nelson, Andrew Plantinga, Justin Breck, Gokce Sencan, Michelle Passero

Ecosystems can increase carbon storage under alternative management techniques and land use patterns. But the magnitude, timing, and spatial heterogeneity is uncertain. Assessing the potential and cost of land management and conservation activities to reduce emissions or increase carbon sequestration is needed to help the…