What We Know



Highlights of climate change impacts to San Diego ecosystems:


why san diego?

San Diego County, a biodiversity hotspot*, is experiencing climate change and rapid population growth.

*The County boasts more taxa of plants and mammals than any other in the United States and is home to thousands of species including ~200 taxa of plants and animals that are state- or federally-listed as threatened or endangered.



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.


Spring and fall will be drier, causing longer and more frequent periods of drought seasons.

More intense, frequent droughts will result in changes to plant communities and the species they can support.

This variability will become more extreme as the climate changes, resulting in more frequent and prolonged droughts followed by intense flood events.

Southern California has more year-to-year precipitation variability than anywhere else in the country.


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.


Marine Layer

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.

Scroll down to learn 10 things YOU can do to help!

Our Climate Kids program is bringing this climate science to the classroom! Learn more at climatekids.org

Return to "San Diego Wildlife, Climate Change, and You!"

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The Climate Science Alliance is fiscally sponsored by the California Wildlife Foundation (Tax ID: 68-0234744).

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