UNDERSTAND our biodiversity and threats it faces

In order to meet goals to preserve and protect California’s biodiversity, it is necessary to develop a baseline understanding of the current status of the State’s biodiversity. California lacks a comprehensive inventory of where species are located, their current status, and potential threats. This baseline knowledge is the foundation of intelligent action. The State’s world-renowned universities and research centers conduct critical scientific work, but there is a need for strategic integration across the public-private divide for core resource assessments to track the trends and status of the wealth of biodiversity in California. With a full understanding, we can scientifically assess rarity, prioritize resources and efforts, and make sound conservation and development plans that are based on data.

The Collaborative will work to better understand our state’s special biological diversity including where it is, what is at risk and what threats our native plants, animals and ecosystems face. We will work to illuminate approaches to conservation, restoration, and recovery that are most effective under current and future conditions.


The California Natural Resources Agency is taking immediate action to support the goal of understanding California’s biological diversity. These include:

Update to the Atlas of the Biodiversity of California. In 2003, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) developed the Atlas of the Biodiversity of California, a 112-page bound collection of full-color maps, photographs, and written accounts about many of the state’s diverse wildlife species and habitats. CDFW is in the process of creating a “living” version of the atlas, which will be accessible online and is estimated to be available late 2020.

The California Conservation Genomics Project (CCGP) is a state-funded initiative with a single goal: to produce the most comprehensive, multispecies, genomic data set ever assembled to help manage regional biodiversity. The CCGP brings together many of California’s leading experts working at the interface of genomics and conservation science to provide decision-makers with a coordinated, synthetic collection of cutting-edge genomic resources and analyses specifically targeted to inform best conservation decisions in the face of rapidly accelerating species declines resulting from habitat loss and climate change.

Biodiversity Conservation and Fuel Treatments Study – Increasing the pace and scale of fuels reduction and forest restoration treatments in the Sierra Nevada has the potential to increase dry forest ecosystem resilience by altering fire behavior and to reduce severe fire risk, promoting large, fire-resistant trees, and creating heterogeneous landscapes. Concern for rare and declining wildlife species has substantially limited the pace and scale of forest restoration efforts in the Sierra Nevada. Awarded through the competitive CAL FIRE CCI Forest Health Research Program for Fiscal Year 2019-20, this research grant will investigate how wildlife communities have been affected by recent forest management and severe wildfire across the Sierra Nevada bioregion, and model the future effects of alternative fuels reductions strategies and altered fire activity on species constraining the pace and scale of fuels restoration. The project began in summer of 2020 and will continue through March of 2024.

image of different species of birds from the Sierra Nevada region.

California Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Framework (CEMAF) as implemented by the Cannabis Program in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, aims to assess if, when, and where cannabis cultivation, as well as other anthropogenic and environmental stressors, are having a significant adverse impact on the environment. CEMAF will be a statewide effort employing high quality, continuous, and passive data-collection methods like camera traps, acoustic recorders, pressure transducers, dissolved oxygen loggers, and flow meters. These tools will collect information on fish and wildlife species and the habitats upon which they depend, to track changes in biodiversity and species abundance over time, and to inform conservation and management decisions.

Marine Protected Areas and Climate Resilience Working GroupClimate change is a major threat to California’s ocean and coastal biodiversity. The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Ocean Science Trust have convened a working group of the OPC Science Advisory Team to explore the role of California’s marine protected area (MPA) network in providing ecological and societal resilience to climate change. The working group will summarize lessons learned from scientific efforts in California and worldwide, highlight key physical, biological, and socioeconomic knowledge gaps, and develop a list of research questions and methods that could help MPA managers begin to address those gaps. The results of this work, anticipated by the end of 2020, will significantly advance our understanding of the role of California’s MPAs in maintaining healthy oceans in the face of a rapidly changing climate.

Climate Sensors on the California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lands to Inform Ecosystem Management – The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) received initial funding to procure an array of climate sensors for deployment on select CDFW ecological reserves and wildlife areas to establish climate baselines on state lands, as part of a growing statewide climate sensor network with other state, federal, and private partners. Climate sensors will be deployed alongside ecological/biodiversity sensors (acoustic recorders, camera traps, etc.) that will be installed as part of CDFW Cannabis Program’s California Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Framework, to integrate climate data with biotic data where feasible. as implemented by the Cannabis Program in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which aims to assess if, when, and where cannabis cultivation, as well as other anthropogenic and environmental stressors, are having a significant adverse impact on the environment.

The following resources and information are a sampling of data and reports available to help understand our biological diversity. This list will grow as the Collaborative shares information across the state.

ARC GIS Living Indicators of the Planet is a global geographic information system (GIS) designed to be a single point to understand the day to day and year to year changes that are occurring on Earth. The 18 topics vary depending on current events, contributions from the community, and new insights about the planet. Collections of indicators are organized thematically. Each indicator routinely updates from information harvested from the GIS community.

Biodiversity Atlas of Los Angeles showcases the unique biodiversity of the Los Angeles area. In addition to environmental information (e.g. climate, geology, land cover), the Atlas features distribution models of sensitive (e.g. endangered or threatened), iconic, and invasive species in LA. Distribution models show how suitable an area is for different species.

Biogeographic Information and Observation System (BIOS) is a system designed to enable the management, visualization, and analysis of biogeographic data collected by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and its Partner Organizations. BIOS creates a statewide, integrated information management tool that can be used on any computer with access to the Internet.

The data available on Cal Adapt offers a view of how climate change might affect California at the local level. Cal Adapt provides access to the wealth of data and information that is produced by State of California’s scientific and research community. Here you can work with visualization tools, access data, and participate in community sharing to contribute your own knowledge.

The California Climate Commons, hosted by the California Landscape Conservation Partnership, provides a starting point for the discovery of climate change data and related resources, information about the science that produced it, and guidance for applying climate change science to conservation in California.

CAL eDNA aims to address problems in biodiversity monitoring by pairing volunteer community scientists with University of California researchers to collect soil, sediment, and water samples from across California.

The California Heartbeat Initiative measures environmental water at UC Natural Reserve System reserves and other protected lands across the state, then integrate the data into climate models. The Initiative tracks the fate of raindrops as they move through the landscape, tracking sap flow through trees, measuring transpiration from leaves, monitoring water wells extending to bedrock, and flying drones to gauge the moisture content of plant communities (forests, chaparral, and grasslands).

The California Native Plant Society is dedicated to saving California native plants and their natural habitats by bringing together science, education, conservation, and gardening to power the native plant movement.

The California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB)is an inventory of the status and locations of rare plants and animals in California. CNDDB staff work with partners to maintain current lists of rare species, as well as to maintain an ever-growing database of GIS-mapped locations for these species.

UC Berkeley Institute for People, Parks and Biodiversity aims to bring an interdisciplinary approach to the research, management, and protection of our national, state and local parks and public lands. The Institute is devoted to the investigation, dissemination, and application of science to the critical issues facing national, state, and local parks, and equivalent protected areas.