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State of the Science Project Explores the Impact of Climate Change on South Coast Ecosystems

San Diego County: The Ecological Impacts of Climate Change on a Biodiversity Hotspot

How can the current state of the science on climate change be utilized to predict future climate-related impacts on our southern California ecosystems? The State of the Science Project led by the Climate Science Alliance – South Coast and the Scripps Institute of Oceanography aims to answer this question in order to determine what conservation planning methods will best suit southern California species in the face of climate change. This unique project is bringing together climatologists and ecologists to explore and articulate regionally specific climate impacts and how those impacts will influence the unique species and habitats of the south coast.

The Mediterranean ecosystems of southern California are some of the most ecologically diverse systems outside of the tropics. The richness and diversity of plants and animals, as well as high rates of endemism make the area a biodiversity hotspot. San Diego County is a particularly unique part of southern California, considering the regions’ complex topography and highly variable precipitation and other climatic factors, which play an important role in determining the resident biological palette. While home to a major metropolitan area, San Diego County still hosts expanses of native and preserved habitats where management and conservation action could be greatly enhanced through science-based assessments and planning for climate change and increased climate variability.

Under the umbrella of the Climate Science Alliance partnership, this team of ecologists and climatologists are collaborating to conduct a review of the most current regionally specific climate information and pair that with current research and knowledge of local species and habitats that are at risk due to climate variability and other stressors. This assessment will review the state of the science on the likely climatic changes expected within the study area and provide a pathway for supporting and informing management planning and actions. This report will also assess and describe the regions’ unique diversity of ecosystems, habitats, plants, and animals, as well as their susceptibility to impacts from climate variability and relevant synergistic impacts of anthropogenic factors that may be exacerbated by a changing climate (e.g., urban growth, land use shifts, and fire regimes). It will review the most regionally-relevant climate adaptation strategies that can be applied to buffer the effects of climate variability and provide several case-study examples of adaptation projects that have been successfully implemented in San Diego’s terrestrial ecosystems. The report will also identify research gaps including but not limited to specific areas for long-term monitoring, climate modeling and projections, and ecosystem modeling that may facilitate change detection, adaptive management, and risk planning for the region.

This research project, “San Diego County: The Ecological Impacts of Climate Change on a Biodiversity Hotspot," was presented at the California Climate Change Symposium in January 2017.

For more information, contact Megan Jennings at

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