Science: California Biodiversity Initiative

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 from ecosystems to species to genes. California is a global biodiversity hotspot and is home to more species of plants and animals than any other state in the U.S. California’s people and economy depend on the complex ecosystems that make up our landscapes and seascapes. While California has managed to avoid sizable declines in biodiversity, threats to our ecosystems are taking their toll. California has more threatened species than any other state in the U.S.

In 2017, a group of 26 scientific experts from across the state’s universities, herbaria, and conservation organizations created the “Charter to Secure the Future of California’s Native Biodiversity," a call to action to secure and recover the abundance and richness of native plants and animals in California, under current and changing climate conditions.

Governor Brown responded by launching the California Biodiversity Initiative in 2018. The goal of the Biodiversity Initiative is to secure the future of California’s biodiversity by integrating biodiversity protection into the state’s environmental and economic goals and efforts. Executive Order B-54-18 directs the Secretaries of Food and Agriculture and Natural Resources to implement the Biodiversity Initiative and to achieve goals consistent with the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Executive Order also calls for all state agencies to work together in reaching these goals.

Concurrently with the Executive Order, the California Biodiversity Initiative Roadmap was issued, which outlines long-term steps for achieving the initiative’s goals. The Roadmap identifies the need to develop a baseline understanding of the current status of California’s biodiversity. Additionally, it highlights that management and conservation activities should integrate protection and preservation of biodiversity and that lands and waters should be restored and protected to meet the initiative’s biodiversity goals.

In October 2020, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-82-20 (PDF), which directed California Natural Resources Agency to establish the California Biodiversity Collaborative. The California Biodiversity Collaborative is the next phase in the evolution of California’s biodiversity conservation movement, integrating and building on efforts started by the California Biodiversity Initiative. The Executive Order also stated that is the goal of the State to conserve at least 30 percent of California's land and coastal waters by 2030 (i.e., 30 by 30). Efforts under the California Biodiversity Collaborative currently are focused on this 30 by 30 initiative, which is being led by California Natural Resources Agency.

CDFW activities related to the California Biodiversity Initiative

The mission of CDFW is to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public. To improve understanding of California’s biodiversity, the 2018 State Budget provided $2.5 million in one-time General Funds for CDFW to launch implementation the California Biodiversity Initiative.

CDFW Science Institute

  • Biodiversity Coordinator: The CDFW Science Institute hired a Biodiversity Coordinator to support implementation of the California Biodiversity Initiative. The CDFW Biodiversity Coordinator consults and works across CDFW, state and federal agencies, and other partners on issues related to preserving, managing, restoring ecosystems for resiliency to protect the state’s biodiversity from climate change and other pressures. To improve collaboration among various resource management and environmental protection organizations at federal, state, local, and private levels, the CDFW Biodiversity Coordinator also serves as the lead coordinating staff for the California Landscape Conservation Partnership. Additionally, the CDFW Biodiversity Coordinator is assisting with the state's 30 by 30 effort.

CDFW Biogeographic Data Branch

  • California Terrestrial Habitat Connectivity map: In 2010, CDFW and the California Department of Transportation commissioned a team of consultants to produce a statewide assessment of essential habitat connectivity in California. Building off of the 2010 map, the Terrestrial Connectivity dataset supports conservation planning efforts by allowing users to spatially evaluate the relative contribution of an area to terrestrial habitat connectivity based on results of statewide, regional, and other connectivity analyses currently available. This dataset has been updated with additional information as of June 2019.
  • Atlas of the Biodiversity of California: In 2003, 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 new version of the atlas, which is estimated to be available by summer 2021.
  • Fine-scale vegetation mapping of southern Sierra Nevada foothills: Vegetation is often considered to be the best single surrogate for habitat and ecosystems, so vegetation science is among the principal tools involved in wildlands management and planning. Since 2003, CDFW has worked with partners to survey and map half of California’s natural vegetation to the current state classification standard. As part of the effort to map the remaining half of the state, fine-scale vegetation mapping of the southern Sierra Nevada foothills is in progress and estimated to be completed by late 2021.

CDFW Invasive Species Program

  • Detection and eradication of nutria (Myocastor coypus): Nutria are large, semi-aquatic rodents that reach up to 2.5 feet in body length and 20+ pounds in weight. Through their extensive herbivory and burrowing habits, nutria have devastating impacts on wetland habitats, agriculture, and water conveyance/flood protection infrastructure. In 2018, the first reproducing population of nutria within the legal Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta boundary was discovered. The CDFW Invasive Species Program is leading the initial response to nutria and is collaborating with other agencies and local partners to develop the most effective strategy for eradicating nutria from California. The interagency Nutria Response Team includes representatives from CDFW, the California Departments of Food and Agriculture, Parks and Recreation, and Water Resources, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local county agricultural commissioner offices. The team is currently preparing an eradication plan, the first stage of which is determining the full extent of the infestation.