Science: California Biodiversity

three bighorn sheep on hillside
purple and orange wildflowers
black and white snake
orange fish and black sea urchin
large primarily black bird

Biodiversity (or biological diversity) refers to the variety of life on Earth, including all living lifeforms from genes to species to ecosystems. California is home to more species of plants and animals than any other state in the nation, and is considered a global biodiversity “hotspot”. It’s varied geography (including the highest and lowest places in the continental U.S.) and proximity to both the ocean and mountains are the foundation for this exceptional natural heritage.

California’s people and economy depend on its biodiversity, which forms the complex ecosystems that make up California landscapes, seascapes, and freshwater systems. While California has managed to avoid sizable losses of biodiversity, it is still in severe decline with threats to our ecosystems taking their toll. California’s biodiversity is more threatened species than any other state in the U.S. in large part due to habitat loss and conversion, impacts from invasive species, and climate change.

Safeguarding biodiversity: The California Biodiversity Initiative and 30x30

Conserving biodiversity in a state as large and complex as California requires a collaborative and creative process. The California Biodiversity Initiative was launched in 2018 by then-Governor Jerry Brown in response to a call to action by scientists and conservation practitioners across the state. The primary goal of the initiative is to secure the future of California’s biodiversity by integrating protection into the state’s environmental and economic goals and efforts. Alongside the initiative was Executive Order B-54-18: a Declaration for our future (PDF) which directs the Secretaries of Food and Agriculture and Natural Resources to implement the Biodiversity Initiative to achieve goals consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity and for all state agencies to work together in reaching these goals. Concurrently the California Biodiversity Initiative Roadmap (PDF) was issued, which outlines long-term steps for achieving the initiative’s goals.

In October 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-82-20 (PDF) which establishes a state goal of conserving 30% of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030 – known as 30x30. The 30x30 goal is intended to help accelerate conservation of our lands and coastal waters through voluntary, collaborative action with partners across the state to meet three objectives: conserve and restore biodiversity, expand access to nature, and mitigate and build resilience to climate change. California’s 30x30 commitment is part of a global effort to increase biodiversity conservation, including in the United States. 

To improve the protection and understanding of biodiversity statewide, CDFW is conducting science, management, and outreach and working alongside partners to achieve the state’s pathways to 30x30. Here are some examples:

California Biodiversity Day

September 7 of each year is California Biodiversity Day, a time to celebrate our state’s unique biodiversity and encourage actions to protect it. California Biodiversity Day is celebrated state-wide through events hosted through the week of biodiversity day. Event hosts include State and federal agencies, NGOs, museums, zoos, academia to invite the public to participate in biodiversity-oriented activities. Check out the 2023 Biodiversity Day website for more information about events and volunteer opportunities near you!

State Lands Climate - Biodiversity Sensor Network

To track and understand impacts of climate change on biodiversity and inform adaptive management and restoration action, CDFW and partners are developing a statewide Climate-Biodiversity Sentinel Site Network to continuously monitor ecosystems and wildlife on both state and private lands. This effort is part of a larger statewide sentinel site network under the California Biodiversity Network with partner organizations like the UC Natural Reserve System, the Nature Conservancy, and Pepperwood Preserve. Biodiversity information is collected based on established CDFW monitoring protocols alongside paired weather stations measuring air temperature, precipitation, wind speed and other abiotic variables. Check out the Science Institute's Climate and Biodiversity Monitoring website for more information on this project.

Outcomes of this long-term monitoring network include site-specific biodiversity management and restoration recommendations focusing on resiliency, long-term datasets based in standardized protocols to inform adaptive management and restoration efforts to reduce extinction risk and increase success of restoration and resiliency to climate change.

Interpretive Panels

As part of an initiative to improve signage on CDFW wildlife areas and ecological reserves, three interpretive panel themes are being developed on climate change, pollinators, and wildlands of CDFW/biodiversity. Each wildlands of CDFW/biodiversity panel will feature a Tribal land acknowledgment that will be specific to each property. CDFW is working closely with Tribes via Tribal consultations for developing Tribal land acknowledgments, and local community-based and outdoor recreation organizations in its stakeholder outreach to ensure that messaging on panels reaches a diverse audience.