California, Hawai'i, and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands have high native biodiversity. They are unique and among the most diverse anywhere in the world. This geographic area includes thousands of oceanic islands, elevational clines from coastal to alpine ecosystems in temperate and tropical ecosystems, and species and communities that occur nowhere else. The challenge facing this geographic area is the limited time available to stem the tide of species extinctions. Significant proportions the native biodiversity have already been lost. Without sufficient information and tools to respond effectively, remaining natural areas are threatened with continued loss.
Research in the Conservation of Biodiversity program area fills information gaps for high-quality, relevant information across the conservation continuum: status, threats, vulnerable components, response of organisms and ecosystems to threats, tradeoffs in desired management outcomes, efficacy of management approaches through adaptive management, restoration and recovery. Our research is directed at enhancing the conservation of plant and animal species and the restoration and maintenance of native ecosystems.
The Conservation of Biodiversity Program is chartered for 10 years from 2011 through 2021, with a mid-term review and potential charter revision after five years. Charters serve to identify the need for research through problem analysis and identify expected outcomes of the research during the life of the charter. The charter for the Conservation of Biodiversity Program identifies four problem areas, described below, that describe the focus of research activities within the program.
Research Problem Areas
- Determine environmental conditions needed for terrestrial species persistence.
Forest, shrubland, and grassland biodiversity is declining as a function of the impact of land use and environmental changes that reduce the diversity and geographic range of populations of native plant and animal species with cascading effects, such as increased risks to species viability, impacts to recreational uses, and reductions in ecosystem services.
- Identify conditions that can support aquatic biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Freshwater ecosystems are in peril because of losses of native biodiversity resulting from a wide-range of environmental threats, which in turn pose risks to a wide range of ecosystem services such as energy generation, water availability, and recreation.
- Determine the genetic origins of traits that can enhance tree adaptability and utility.
Native tree species play important ecological, economic, and cultural roles in ecosystems, yet many species are vulnerable to environmental change as evidenced by reductions of geographic range, genetic diversity, adaptability, forest productivity, resilience, and associated forest products and ecosystem services.
- Develop innovative approaches to reduce ecological impacts of non-native species.
Ecosystem restoration faces challenges created by a lack of historical analogs, knowledge gaps about how to effectively restore ecosystems, and extreme environmental conditions, which require innovative approaches to reduce impacts of non-native species and enhance the resilience of native species assemblages.