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?

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 | 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…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

The emergence of cannabis agricultural frontiers as environmental threats

Van Butsic, Jennifer K. Carah, Matthias Baumann, Connor Stephens, Jacob C. Brenner

While cannabis cultivation in California is known to sometimes have serious collateral impacts on the environment, those impacts and their extent are not well understood or described. In this paper, the authors quantify growth in the footprint of cannabis cultivation between 2012 and 2016 in…


2018 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Oren Pollak Memorial Research Fund - 2019 RFP

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…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Wetland Bird Conservation in California Rice Fields

Chris Elphick, T. Rodd Kelsey, Catherine Hickey, Khara Strum, Paul Buttner, Monica Iglecia

Wetland birds, especially Sandhill Cranes, are heavily dependent on irrigated farmlands in the Central Valley of California after widespread conversion of natural habitats. TNC and its partners have had great success working with farmers to design and implement compatible management practices that make sure farms,…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Waterbird response to variable-timing of drawdown in rice fields after winter-flooding

Kristen Sesser, Monica Iglecia, Matthew Reiter, Khara Strum, Catherine Hickey, Rodd Kelsey, Daniel Skalos

Over 50% of waterbird habitat in the Central Valley of California is provided by flooded agricultural land. Each year non-breeding waterbird habitat decreases in the late winter as flooded agricultural fields are drained after waterfowl hunting season in late-January to prepare for the next crop.…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Groundwater sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley: Multiple benefits if agricultural lands are retired and restored strategically

Rodd Kelsey, Abby Hart, H. Scott Butterfield, Dan Vink

Restoring habitat in retired farmland could reduce water demand and provide ecosystem services for farmers and local communities. In some areas of California, as a result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA), it is likely that large amounts of agricultural land will need to…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Marine | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Conserving California's Coastal Habitats: A Legacy and a Future with Sea Level Rise

Walter N. Heady, Brian S. Cohen, Mary G. Gleason, Joshua N. Morris, Sarah G. Newkirk, Kirk R. Klausmeyer, Hilary R. Walecka, Elizabeth Gagneron

Sea level rise presents a new challenge to coastal conservation. The authors quantified and mapped the vulnerability of habitats, imperiled species, and conservation lands to sea level rise throughout the entire California coast, where high biodiversity, high endemism, and 26.5 million people coincide. Combining habitat…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Better late than never: a synthesis of strategic land retirement and restoration in California

Chris Lortie, Alex Filazzola, Rodd Kelsey, Abigail Hart, Scott Butterfield

Over the past 100 years, California's Central Valley has undergone a massive transformation from desert to a mosaic of farmland and urban development. This transformation has also meant many desert species have lost habitat. Now, new groundwater regulations are calling for the retirement of more…


2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Blogs

Climate Connectivity Analysis: An Innovation Approach to Identifying Critical Habitat in California

Alex Leumer, Carrie Schloss, Cara Lacey

Plants and animals lack the ability to change their environment. As their current habitat becomes unsuitable due to climate change, they may search out new, more suitable habitat to adapt to changing conditions. With limited resources for protecting additional lands, the conservation community must protect…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Impact of extreme drought and incentive programs on flooded agriculture and wetlands in California’s Central Valley

Matthew E. Reiter​, Nathan K. Elliott, Dennis Jongsomjit, Gregory H. Golet, Mark D. Reynolds

In the Central Valley of California, with 90% of the historic wetlands gone, waterbirds depend upon managed wetlands and seasonally flooded agriculture to meet their habitat needs. The 2013-2015 drought in the Central Valley was more severe than drought years during 2000-2011 and reduced waterbird…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Water Supply and Habitat Resiliency for a Future Los Angeles River: Site-Specific Natural Enhancement Opportunities Informed by River Flow and Watershed-Wide Action

Brian Cohen, Shona Ganguly, Sophie Parker, John Randall, Jill Sourial, and Lara Weatherly of The Nature Conservancy, Land IQ, Natural History Museum Los Angeles County, WRC Consulting Services Inc., Travis Longcore, University of Southern California, Connective Issue, Inc.

As a basic principle of ecological systems, a watershed’s hydrology determines the flow characteristics of its river system. These flows define what the biological characteristics of that river will be, which in turn determine what kinds of habitat enhancement projects will succeed at various locations along…


2018 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Oak habitat recovery on California's largest islands: Scenarios for the role of corvid seed dispersal

Mario B. Pesendorfer, Christopher M. Baker, Martin Stringer, Eve McDonald‐Madden, Michael Bode, A. Kathryn McEachern, Scott A. Morrison, T. Scott Sillett

A key aim of conservation is to restore ecological processes to degraded ecosystems. This study models how reintroducing an ecosystem engineer – the island scrub-jay, which is a highly efficient seed disperser – to a degraded island ecosystem could accelerate the recovery of its oak…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecological spillover dynamics of organisms from urban to natural landscapes

Jill E. Spear, Erik K. Grijalva, Julia S. Michaels, Sophie S. Parker

This paper discusses the impact of urban-dwelling plants and animals on regional wildland populations, both within and across species. The authors reviewed the global conservation literature and identified seven ecological processes that have the potential to be affected by spillover from urban to wildland areas.…


2018 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Ecological Values of the Amargosa River in California

Sophie S. Parker, Jim Moore, Leonard Warren

The 185 mile-long Amargosa River, one of only two rivers with perennial flow in the California portion of the Mojave Desert, is fed by an ancient groundwater aquifer. The river provides habitat for hundreds of organisms, including a unique suite of rare, endemic, and imperiled…


2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Science in Action

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

Dick Cameron, Carrie Schloss

The Conservancy’s Omniscape tool provides a connectivity roadmap for plants and animals that need to adapt as the climate warms.