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?

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 | 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 | 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 | 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.


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 | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Islands

Nicholas D. Holmes, Olivier Langrand, Russell A. Mittermeier, Anthony B. Rylands, Thomas Brooks, Dena R. Spatz, James C. Russell, Wes Sechrest, Federico Méndez Sánchez, Cristina Mittermeier (Editor)

Covering only five percent of the land on our planet, islands are home to an estimated 20 percent of the world’s bird, reptile, and plant species, as well as the most astonishing examples of species’ evolution. "Islands" is the 26th volume in the CEMEX Nature Series…


2018 | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Tracking invasive species eradications on islands at a global scale

Holmes ND, Keitt BS, Spatz DR, Will DJ, Hein S, Russell JC, Genovesi P, Cowan PE, Tershy BR

Indicators for tracking conservation efforts at a global scale are rare but important tools for understanding trends and measuring progress towards global conservation targets. Eradication of invasive species from islands is an increasingly used conservation intervention in countries and territories around the world. This paper…


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 | Terrestrial | Marine | Science | Publications & Reports

Invasive rat eradication strongly impacts plant recruitment on a tropical atoll

Wolf CA, Young HS, Zilliacus KM, Wegmann AS, McKown M, Holmes ND, Tershy BR, Dirzo R, Kropidlowski S, Croll DA

Prior to eradication in 2011, non-native invasive rats were known to be active seed predators on Palmyra Atoll, Central Pacific Ocean. This paper reports on native and non-native tree and palm seedling abundance before and after eradication, with seedling recruitment increasing for five of the…


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.…