Science: Climate and Biodiversity Monitoring

multiple images for climate biodiversity monitoring

Climate-Biodiversity Sentinel Site Network

Long-term monitoring (spanning decades) is crucial to understanding how ecosystems change over time at local, regional, and state-wide scales, which informs management strategies and actions aimed at conserving California’s biodiversity for future generations.

The California Climate-Biodiversity Sentinel Site Network is a collection of long-term climate and biodiversity monitoring sites statewide. Each site is an individual property where survey plots are being established to systematically monitor climate and biodiversity across the diverse ecosystems of California over time.

This network is being developed through a statewide, multi-jurisdictional partnership and community of practice for science-informed management, in collaboration with the California Biodiversity Network(opens in new tab).

CDFW Sentinel Sites

The CDFW Science Institute, Lands, and Wildlife Diversity Programs have worked together to establish sentinel sites on select Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves across the state. These sites were chosen to reflect the wide range of climate conditions and ecosystem types in California (e.g., coastal, deserts, high-elevation mountain sites, valleys, foothills, etc.).

Each CDFW sentinel site hosts at least one weather station with a variety of sensors for climate monitoring, wildlife cameras and acoustic sensors (for birds and bats), permanent vegetation monitoring plots, and Motus telemetry stations (to capture animal movements) for biodiversity monitoring.

Access the current map of CDFW planned sentinel sites (PDF)(opens in new tab). This map will be updated as additional sites are added to the network.

Exploring the Data

Climate Data: Each weather station measures the following variables: air temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, photosynthetically active solar radiation, relative humidity, wind speed and direction, barometric pressure, soil moisture and temperature, and fuel moisture (a measure of wildfire risk). Data collected by each weather station are publicly accessible on Dendra.Science, a data platform developed and managed by UC Berkeley. Dendra includes climate data from CDFW as well as other organizations within the statewide sentinel site network.

Biodiversity Data: Currently, biodiversity monitoring includes the use of wildlife cameras for recording the presence of small to large animals and acoustic sensors for birds and bats. Data will be stored on a variety of different data management and analysis platforms, such as Wildlife Insights. For detailed information on monitoring methodologies, check out these storybooks for field methodology protocols(opens in new tab) and data processing protocols(opens in new tab).

Biodiversity monitoring at sentinel sites also includes Motus telemetry stations to capture animal movements. Data collected by Motus stations is available at The Motus network permits researchers to understand the movements of tagged animals regardless of the ownership or management of the station. This system benefits the Department by increasing the research potential of migratory species and species like bats and butterflies where until recently, assessments of their movement patterns were not possible. It also benefits research partners by providing an infrastructure for the study of animal movements at the continental scale. Visit CDFW's Motus system web page for more information on how Motus is being used to track wildlife movement.


These datasets on climate and biodiversity allow scientists to evaluate potential links between climate change and effects on local species and ecosystems. This information helps land managers to understand climate change-related effects and risks to biodiversity and practice adaptive management.

Additionally, by establishing records of ecosystem conditions before, during, and after extreme events such as drought, floods, and wildfires, scientists can identify locations on the landscape that act as potential climate refugia (areas that are relatively buffered from the impacts of climate change), and conversely highlight areas where climate impacts are more substantial.

Understanding the effects of climate change at multiple spatial, temporal, and taxonomic scales can inform land-management decisions and long-term conservation goals and strategies for California’s biodiversity.

Working Together

CDFW is coordinating with multiple external collaborators on the California Climate-Biodiversity Sentinel Site Network, including UC Natural Reserve System, UC Berkeley, Pepperwood Preserve, the Nature Conservancy, USGS, and the broader California Biodiversity Network Sentinel Site Roundtable(opens in new tab).