Science: Climate and Biodiversity Monitoring

multiple images for climate biodiversity monitoring

CDFW 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 CDFW Science Institute, Lands, and Wildlife Diversity Programs, as part of a larger statewide partnership through the California Biodiversity Network(opens in new tab) are establishing a CDFW Climate-Biodiversity Sentinel Site Network to continuously monitor ecosystems and wildlife on public lands statewide.

This network of sentinel sites will feature scientific grade sensor equipment to monitor climate, wildlife, and plants for the purposes of determining overall ecosystem health, identifying emerging hazards or risks to biodiversity, and monitoring how species and ecosystems are responding and adapting to climate change.

The data collected through this effort will inform land management in the face of climate change and other stressors.

What is a ‘Sentinel Site Network’?

In this case, a sentinel site is a long-term monitoring and evaluation location where continuous data streams are collected on climate and biodiversity-related variables. The data collected are used to determine status and trends of species and ecosystems facing climate change.

The California Climate-Biodiversity Sentinel Site Network is a statewide, multi-jurisdictional partnership and community of practice for science-informed management.

Creating Sentinel Sites

CDFW sentinel sites are being established 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 sentinel site location will host at least one weather station with a variety of sensors for climate monitoring, and suites of 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.

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

Exploring the Data

Data collected by each weather station are publicly accessible on Dendra.Science(opens in new tab), 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.

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).

Biodiversity sensors are measuring the presence of small and large mammals, reptiles and amphibians, birds and bats, and changes in vegetation patterns over time. These data will be stored on a variety of different data management and analysis platforms.

Data collected by Motus stations is available at (opens in new tab). 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 poorly studied species and 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 substantial and where extensive restoration efforts may not be prudent.

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)