With California’s population on track to reach 50 million people, the demand for energy, water, and land will continue to grow. Climate change will compound the strains on society and the environment. Most of this population growth will be centered in larger cities that are already struggling to maintain aging transportation and water infrastructure.

But nature can play an important role in the redevelopment of these systems. Wetlands treat storm water, oyster reefs buffer storm surges, and shade trees reduce heat, providing the benefits of traditional infrastructure while adding scenery and wildlife habitat.

Conservancy scientists are demonstrating how society can minimize trade-offs between development and conservation through innovative regional planning. And by showing what nature can do for cities–and what cities can do for nature–we can develop models for improving the quality of urban life, with broad application on an urbanizing planet.

Science in Action

Terrestrial | Science

Putting Nature on the Map in L.A.

How do we guide urban infrastructure investments to solve problems for people and nature?

Terrestrial | Planning

Tortoises and Solar Power

Can science help reduce tradeoffs between development and conservation?

2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Publications & Reports

Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) Report

Parker SS, Randall JM, Pauly GB, Li E, Brown BV, Cohen BS

This report is a product of the Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) project. It provides details on why we conducted our analysis, how the partnership between the Museum and the Conservancy was formed, how our Core Team, Scientific Advisory Group, and Stakeholder Group…


2019 | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Economics | Science | Publications & Reports

Power of Place: Land Conservation and Clean Energy Pathways for California

Grace C. Wu, Emily Leslie, Douglas Allen, Douglas Allen, Oluwafemi Sawyerr, D. Richard Cameron, Erica Brand, Brian Cohen, Marcela Ochoa, Arne Olson

California has ambitious climate and energy policies that call for the development of significant amounts of new zero-carbon energy by midcentury. The Power of Place study looks at multiple pathways to meet California's clean energy demand in alignment with decarbonization goals while limiting the impacts…


2019 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Technology | Science | Data

Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) data

Enjie Li, Sophie S. Parker, Gregory B. Pauly, John M. Randall, Brian V. Brown, Brian S. Cohen

This dataset is a product of the Biodiversity Analysis in Los Angeles (BAILA) project, and demonstrates 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…


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 | 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…


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 | 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

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 | 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 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Assessment of Wildlife Crossing Sites for the Interstate 15 and Highway 101 Freeways in Southern California

Seth P. D. Riley, Trish Smith, T. Winston Vickers

Freeways are barriers to wildlife passage and gene exchange. In Southern California, mountain lion movement has been severely restricted due to this infrastructure. As a result, the mountain lions in the Santa Ana and Santa Monica  Mountains have become severely inbred, threatening their long-term health and…


2017 | Freshwater | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Rethinking the Grid: 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 (slide deck), produced for the Conservancy by Energy+Environmental Economics, analyzes an alternative transmission planning framework (Energy-Only) using the San Joaquin Valley as…


2017 | Terrestrial | Planning | Microsite

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…


2016 | Terrestrial | Publications & Reports

Prioritizing Riparian Conservation: A Methodology Developed for the Santa Clara River, California

Sophie S. Parker, Lily N. Verdone, E.J. Remson, Brian S. Cohen

This study addresses a basic problem shared by many riparian conservation projects: parcelization. Having dozens or hundreds of owners along a river can make conserving riparian ecosystems a difficult and expensive enterprise. In the study, the authors present a science-based method for prioritizing the acquisition…


2015 | Terrestrial | Planning | Publications & Reports

Conservation Planning for Offsetting the Impacts of Development: A Case Study of Biodiversity and Renewable Energy in the Mojave Desert

Jason Kreitler, Carrie A. Schloss, Oliver Soong, Lee Hannah, Frank W. Davis

In the past, mitigation to address impacts from development have lacked a regional planning perspective resulting in efficient design across a set of sites for a suite of impacts. This paper introduces a tool that uses spatial prioritization to identify optimized mitigation opportunities for solar…


2015 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Survival and mortality of pumas (Puma concolor) in a fragmented, urbanizing landscape

Vickers, T.W., J. N. Sanchez, C. Johnson, S.A. Morrison, R. Botta, T. Smith, B.S. Cohen, P. Huber, W.M. Boyce

Conservation of wide-ranging species like mountain lions is especially difficult in highly fragmented landscapes, such as coastal southern California. Research into their populations can provide important insights into what is needed to protect them, such as where to prioritize habitat conservation or restoration. This paper…