Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the San Francisco Bay Area

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Ackerly, David D., Ryals, Rebecca A., Cornwell, Will K., Loarie, Scott R., Veloz, Sam, Higgason, Kelley D., Silver, Whendee L., and Dawson, Todd E.
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The San Francisco Bay Area contains a rich array of plant and animal biodiversity and an
extensive open space network, embedded within a major metropolitan area. Terrestrial habitats
in the San Francisco Bay Area support a wide range of ecosystem services, including carbon
storage, forage production, enhanced water supply and quality, crop pollination, and outdoor
recreation. The distribution of habitats and plant and animal species is strongly influenced by
spatial variation in climate, and is thus expected to change in response to changes in regional
and global climate. Current research suggests that most vegetation types will shift toward the
coast, especially under scenarios with warmer and drier conditions; range contractions and
reduced diversity are projected for California endemic plants in the Bay Area. Bird communities
are projected to undergo significant reorganization, leading to altered interactions and
community structure. Improved modeling at fine spatial scales represents an important priority
to reduce uncertainty in these projections.
Climate change is expected to strongly affect ecosystem services. Carbon storage in soils and
vegetation could contribute to California’s carbon emissions reduction strategy, but current
models project reduced carbon storage in trees due to climate change. Altered agricultural
management strategies, including conversion to perennial crops, have the potential to increase
soil carbon storage. Climate change impacts on vegetation, hydrology and habitat integrity may
negatively affect fire regimes, forage production, water supplies, crop pollination services, and
outdoor recreation and quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area, but few specific projections
are available.
Strategic conservation planning in the Bay Area is under way to enhance biodiversity
conservation through continued open space acquisition. Conservation of heterogeneous
landscapes will provide resilience in the face of climate change. Improved understanding of
projected climate change impacts on natural habitats will contribute to the development of
regional adaptation strategies.


Ackerly, D. D., R. A. Ryals, W. K. Cornwell, S. R. Loarie, S. Veloz, K. D. Higgason, W. L. Silver, and T. E. Dawson. 2012. Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in the San Francisco Bay Area. California Energy Commission. Retrieved from