SYMP 13-3 - Climate change and open space conservation: Lessons from TBC3's researcher-land manager partnerships in the San Francisco Bay Area

Wednesday, August 9, 2017: 2:30 PM
Portland Blrm 251, Oregon Convention Center
David D. Ackerly, Department of Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, Naia Morueta-Holme, Integrative Biology, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, Samuel D. Veloz, Climate Change & Quantitative Ecology, Point Blue Conservation Science, Petaluma, CA, Elisabeth R. Micheli, Dwight Center for Conservation Science at Pepperwood, Santa Rosa, CA and Nicole Heller, Peninsula Open Space Trust, Palo Alto, CA

Translating climate change projections into informed conservation action is both an immediate priority, and also a ‘wicked’ problem given the inherent uncertainties about the timing, location, and nature of future impacts. In 2012, we created the Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative (, a group of hydrologists, climate scientists, ecologists and conservation planners dedicated to advancing the science, communication and application of climate change science to inform open space conservation in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Our work includes development of high resolution climate and watershed hydrology layers under multiple future climate projections, modeling potential impacts on vegetation distributions, and evaluating the robustness of regional conservation priorities in relation to current and future climatic diversity. Research products are shared with land and water managers through workshops, public talks, one-on-one engagement, regional multi-agency initiatives, web-based data sharing, scenario planning, and distilled summaries of projections at watershed and landscape scales based on user needs. We strive to enhance understanding of how to appropriately apply climate change projections, co-produce applied tools for land and water managers, incorporate managers' feedback into long-term research priorities, and promote meaningful exchanges capable of generating new approaches to conservation in the face of inevitable rapid change in ecosystems.


We focus on a recent one-day workshop that engaged land managers in three narrative scenarios for climate change impacts on vegetation: extreme drought, catastrophic fire, and increased rainfall. The scenarios were built on quantitative models that were translated into tangible narrative and visual depictions of how impacts might unfold ‘on-the-ground’. For example, the drought scenario depicts how a widespread die-off of common oak species might play out, while the high-rainfall scenario depicts an expansion of conifer species combined with more frequent and intense disturbance events. Collectively, researchers and managers evaluated a range of strategies to promote specific management objectives—e.g., biodiversity conservation, reduced catastrophic fire risk, protection of water supplies—under the different scenarios. By translating model results into a compelling, detail-rich time-based format, even participants familiar with climate models were able to think more deeply about how these conditions might force their hand to consider new management tools. Participants spoke to the value of having researchers help reframe "how to think about the problem" in a meaningful regional context, rather than dictating specific management recommendations. By incorporating managers' local knowledge, this approach empowers informed yet flexible site-specific solutions, while avoiding the pitfalls of overgeneralization in the face of uncertainty.