Nearly half of California is protected in some land status that prevents most kinds of intensive human land uses.  These lands support extensive natural habitats, and for many species, are a critical stronghold in an increasingly human-dominated world.

Yet, changes in the landscape in and near these places have left many in a degraded and precarious condition. Catastrophic wildfire, invasive species, and climate change threaten vast swathes of the state. Protected lands are becoming increasingly isolated by urban and agricultural development, roads, and other infrastructure. Such obstacles can limit a species’ ability to move to across the landscape and adapt to climate change.

Conservancy scientists are working to enhance the resiliency of protected lands in the face of rapid change, and to maintain the landscape connections necessary for plants and animals to adapt over time. 

Science in Action

Terrestrial | Science

Island Fox

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

Terrestrial | Science

Invasive Ant Removal

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

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 | 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…


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

Harnessing cross-border resources to confront climate change

Aburto-Oropeza, O., M. Edwards, S. Butterfield, and 93 additional authors

The U.S. and Mexico face many shared ecological changes due to the increased frequency and severity of droughts and rising energy demands; trends that entail economic costs for both nations and major implications for human well-being. This paper synthesizes current knowledge about the most pressing issues…


2018 | Terrestrial | Planning | Science | Publications & Reports

Adapting the bioblitz to meet conservation needs

Parker, S.S., B.V. Brown, B.S. Cohen, N.S. Fraga, J.J. Knapp, Z. Principe, J. Moore, G.B. Pauly, J.M. Randall, T.A. Wake

A bioblitz is a collaborative, rapid field assessment that takes place in a given location over a short period of time. This paper discusses how bioblitz events involving experts are being used to meet the needs of conservation. The authors discuss the best practices for…


2018 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Introduction to the Special Issue on the Flora and Vegetation of the Islands of the Californias

John J. Knapp, John M. Randall

The islands off the Pacific coast of California and Baja California, from the Farallones in the north to Isla Natividad in the south, are within the California Floristic Province. Their shared flora is distinctive and rich in endemic genera, species, subspecies, and varieties not found…


2017 | Terrestrial | Science | Publications & Reports

Amargosa River Expert BioBlitz 2017 Final Report

Parker, S.S., B.S. Cohen, N. Fraga, B. Brown, J. Cole, W. Chatfield-Taylor, K. Guadalupe, G.B. Pauly, D. Cooper, M. Ordeñana

In 2017, The Nature Conservancy co-organized an “Expert BioBlitz” to explore a 26-mile stretch of the Wild and Scenic Amargosa River, located in the heart of the Mojave Desert. The event was designed be a rapid-response, high return-on-investment method for the collection of high-quality field…


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 | 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

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 | 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…


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…