The Climate Science Alliance teamed up with local ecologists and climatologists to assess how climate change is impacting ecosystems and wildlife in Southern California and Northern Baja. These regions are biodiversity hotspots and experience the combined impact of climate change and rapid population growth.
Key points from the resulting "San Diego County Ecosystems: The Ecological Impacts of Climate Change on a Biodiversity Hotspot", which informs California’s 4th Climate Change Assessment, have been summarized on this page.
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What We Know
Daily temperature ranges will become more extreme.
Habitat ranges for many species will shift as temperatures change.
More frequent and intense heat waves will impact wildlife and people.
Warming may cause timing mismatches for plants and animals that rely on each other for food and pollination.
More frequent and intense heatwaves may become too much for the California spotted owl (Strix occidentalis occidentalis) to tolerate.
Southern California has more year-to-year precipitation variability than anywhere else in the country.
This variability will become more extreme as the climate changes, resulting in more frequent and prolonged droughts followed by intense flood events.
More intense, frequent droughts will result in changes to plant communities and the species they can support.
Spring and fall will be drier, causing longer and more frequent periods of drought seasons.
Changes in spring drying of rivers and streams can decrease the arroyo toad’s (Anaxyrus californicus) ability to raise its young.
Humans are the major driver of fire activity, but extreme precipitation events followed by intense drought will make fires more intense and more frequent.
These climatic extremes may dry out vegetation, increasing the amount of fuel available to burn.
More intense and frequent fires linked to drought and availability of fuels will further disrupt plants, animals, and human communities.
Repeated fires degrade habitat that California gnatcatchers (Polioptila californica) need to raise their young.
Coastal low clouds and fog, often referred to as marine layer, strongly influence the types of plants and animals that can live along the coast.
The marine layer provides relief during hot summer months and can minimize the intensity of drought events.
The future of our marine layer under climate change is still unclear and we need more research to help us better understand.
Multiple species, like wart-stemmed ceanothus (Ceanothus verrucosus), need the marine layer to survive.
CONSERVATION + MANAGEMENT
Researchers and land managers are working together to integrate climate change in conservation planning.
All community members can do their part to support local ecosystems as they are impacted by our changing climate.
Our Climate Kids program is bringing this climate science to the classroom! Learn more at climatekids.org
What You Can Do
Give wildlife a break!
Climate change is going to make it harder on wildlife to find food, shelter, and raise their young. You can help take the pressure off wildlife with these 10 thing you can do.
STAY ON TRAILS
Trails are designed to give you the best view of local wildlife while avoiding damage to their habitat. If you encounter wildlife, admire them from a distance.
It’s important for you to stay on trails for safety reasons and prevents harm to sensitive species. Plan ahead and check online for trail guides. You can also locate a visitor center to pick up a printed copy of trail maps. Staff and rangers are always happy to answer any questions you have about trail safety, so don’t hesitate to ask.
"Why Stay on Trails?" pamphlet from California State Parks
"Principle 2: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces" from Leave No Trace, Center for Outdoor Ethics
REDUCE FIRE RISKS
Clearing vegetation away from your home, toasting your s’mores in a properly-made campfire, and maintaining outdoor equipment and vehicles to avoid sparks are simple things you can do to lower fire risk!
The majority of wildfires are started by humans, so do your part and reduce fire risks. Visit the links in the resources for detailed instructions on how to prevent person-caused fire as well as information on how to prepare for a wildfire, in case it happens in your community.
PreventWildfireCA.org from the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group
ReadyForWildfire.org from CALFIRE
San Diego Brush Management and Weed Abatement Information from the City of San Diego
TAKE ONLY PICTURES
It may be obvious to leave animals in their habitat, but did you know that taking rocks, wood, shells, and plants from wild spaces can disturb the ecosystem too? Every piece of nature plays an important role, so leave it alone and take a picture instead.
All parts of an ecosystem are interconnected to one another, each playing an important role that may or may not be obvious to the human eye. And while it might seem relatively harmless to pick flowers or take a rock, what would happen if every visitor did the same?
If you are inspired by what you see, take a photograph, draw a picture, or write a story about it to share with your friends and family. Just as you wouldn’t take anything, be sure not to leave any trash behind either. This ensures that every visitor will enjoy these special places just as you did — undisturbed, wild, and beautiful.
"Principle 4: Leave What You Find" from Leave No Trace, Center for Outdoor Ethics
WATCH FOR WILDLIFE
Watch out for wildlife crossing roads.
When a road is built, it often cuts through habitat and ecosystems that are home to multiple species. It is up to us to stay alert for wildlife that may dart across the road or sunbathe on the warm asphalt. If you see injured wildlife, report it.
Scientists in San Diego are studying wildlife by tracking them with GPS collars and hidden cameras to better understand how we can improve wildlife connectivity. These observations are being used to inform land managers' actions on where to construct wildlife crossings, such as bridges or tunnels on highways and roads.
Watch for Wildlife: A Wildlife Vehicle Collision Prevention Program from the Sierra Club Canada Foundation
Project Wildlife, a program of San Diego Humane Society
KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR PETS
Not only is it safer for your cat to be indoors and your dog to be on a leash, it’s safer for wildlife too! Supervise your pets to protect birds, insects, reptiles, and small mammals.
By avoiding interactions between your pets and wildlife, you are keeping both of them safe. Did you know that cats kill over two billion birds every year in the United States, making cat predation the leading cause of bird mortality? Both cats and dogs heavily impact wildlife communities through predation, as well as through spreading disease, competition for habitat and resources, or simply disturbance.
While we can’t completely control our pets’ instincts, we can keep them healthy, safe, and happy by limiting their interactions with wildlife.
AVOID HARMFUL PESTICIDES & HERBICIDES
Using toxic chemicals to handle pests and weeds often causes unintentional harm to wildlife.
For example, a raptor that eats a poisoned rodent will fall ill from the poison as well. Replace harmful pesticides and herbicides with a "natural" repellant that is less likely to harm or disturb threatened wildlife populations. Unwanted pests? Instead of poison, try a trap! Weeds in your garden? Instead of a toxic herbicide, try pouring boiling water or vinegar on it. There are lots of different options — try one today!
"Pesticides: Home and Garden" from the American Bird Conservancy
"Solve a Problem" from the Master Gardener Association of San Diego County
"Pollinator Conservation: Four Principles to Help Bees and Butterflies" from the Xerces Society
MAKE A HOME FOR WILDLIFE
Habitat loss is a huge threat to wildlife in San Diego. Plant native vegetation, a pollinator garden, or hang up a bird or bat house to support local wildlife.
Support local wildlife in your own backyard! Check out the resources to learn about using native plants, how to set up a pollinator garden, or build a bird or even a bat house. This can be a fun activity with friends and family, and you can enjoy wildlife from your window.
While some wildlife is encouraged to set up camp in your backyard, you might want to deter others. Learn how to co-exist with all wildlife, as well as what you should do if you find wildlife.
"Nesting Box" (for birds) from the National Wildlife Federation
"Nests for Native Bees" from the Xerces Society
"How to Build a Butterfly and Pollinator Garden in Seven Steps" from the US Fish and Wildlife Service
"Bat Houses" from Bat Conservation International
"Gardening and Horticulture" from the California Native Plant Society
"Coexisting with Wildlife" from Project Wildlife and the San Diego Humane Society
STAY UPDATED ON REGULATIONS
Be sure to review the latest state, federal, and local regulations before hunting and fishing! Following these laws helps keep wildlife populations balanced and sustainable.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates freshwater sport fishing, saltwater sport fishing, commercial fishing, mammal hunting and bird hunting. Download this year's regulations or pick up a hard copy at your regional office.
"Fishing and Hunting Regulations" from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Volunteer to remove invasive plants, clear trash, and raise awareness! There are many ecological reserves and organizations in San Diego where you can volunteer your time to help local wildlife.
The Climate Science Alliance partners with over 200 organizations and many of them offer volunteer opportunities throughout the year. Check out our partners' pages to connect to an organization near you.
VolunteerMatch.org for environmental opportunities in San Diego
SHARE THE STORY!
Share what you have learned with friends and family.
We teach our Climate Kids that a scientist has three jobs: 1) Figure out the problem
2) Find the solution
3) SHARE THE STORY!
This last step is so important and everyone can do it.
Share what you are doing to give wildlife a break on social media with the hashtag #10ThingsForWildlife
The development and distribution of this project was made possible with support from these organizations:
This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Geological Survey under Grant/Cooperative Agreement No. G17AP00097 from the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center.