To save something, you have to know it exists.
Seems obvious, but it’s not so simple when we’re talking about plants. Despite California’s rich history of botanical exploration, millions of acres remain a mystery. And even on land that is familiar, what grows at the time of one biological assessment may not be detectable (at least above surface) 5, 10 or 20 years later. Today, however, we have a chance to know – and save — more than ever before. Californians are discovering new native species at growing rates, and plants once believed to be extinct are being found. Thanks to conservation and scientific breakthroughs, we are just beginning to unlock the clues our native plants may hold for climate change, global pandemics, and even life in space.
But with development and population at all-time highs, we are now in a race against time to understand our natural resources before we pave over or otherwise destroy them for good.
A map for the future
Forward-thinking conservationists and leaders understand these realities and have rallied experts throughout the state to participate in what is known as regional planning – multi-stakeholder efforts to determine what land is developed and what land is set aside. At its best, these decisions are made using the best available science concerning our water, soil, animals, plants, and other critical resources. And that’s where the Important Plant Area Initiative comes into play. Region by region, CNPS is working with a network of science and land-use experts to build the state’s first comprehensive map of the plant places we most need to save and why. Once completed, this valuable tool will serve as a definitive, scientific guide for generations to come.
How exactly does CNPS define an Important Plant Area?
Important Plant Areas (IPAs) are the places in California which are crucial to the conservation of the State’s botanical heritage. This is not to say other areas are not important, just that we have determined IPAs to be particularly important for conservation. Our state is highly diverse and what is “important” for plant conservation varies ecoregion to ecoregion. IPAs may be defined based on presence of rare plant species, rare vegetation types, ethnobotanically/culturally important plant areas, areas with high levels of native plant species richness, large intact natural areas, areas of high biomass/carbon sinks, and/or areas of high habitat suitability for rare plant species. We will take a regional approach to IPAs for this reason, and assemble our IPAs to a statewide map once the initial modeling has been completed.
How would I contribute?
There are several ways to contribute:
Botanical and Plant Ecology Experts:
1) Participate in regional data gathering workshops
2) Review input data maps and send in or suggest mising relevant data sets not currently represented
3) Review and comment on workshop output data
4) Review and comment on model output data
Regulators, Land Managers, and Conservation Advocates:
1) Provide input on how we can make IPAs a useful tool for you
2) Review and provide comments on model outputs
3) Use model outputs in your decision making
4) Promote IPAs in your management areas
1) Promote IPAs
Haven't we already done things like this before?
Yes, similar projects have been undertaken in the past and are currently ongoing. IPAs represent an opportunity to review and build on these efforts with the novel additions of having the process be transparent and driven by expert input and end user needs.
How will my information be used?
Data provided during expert workshops will be input to the IPA Model, which will incorporate the data into a conservation value “heat map”. The heat map will be reviewed by those who provided input data who will then inform which values should be used as a threshold to draw IPA boundaries.
I've participated in things like this before and nothing seemed to happen. What is your timeline, and what deliverables or outcomes can we expect to see?
CNPS will hold at least 17 workshops throughout California and Northern Baja, Mexico over the next 3 years with our version 1 IPA maps completed by June 2022. This will be accompanied by a review and IPA establishment criteria and protocols, and publications documenting the IPA process and promoting their implementation for conservation. More proximally we are completing a draft model by early 2019 which will be reviewed by our 2018 workshop participants. If you participate in a workshop, you will be contacted again to review model results for your region within 1-2 months.
How are you working with other agencies or organizations focused on similar regional planning efforts?
- The IPA Program has put together an advisory board with representation from public, private, and NGO entities. This includes California Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, California Strategic Growth Council, and private consultants. The advisory board is responsible for reviewing IPA progress and providing comments and guidance on model development. This will help CNPS build a model that is informed by the desired end users, and augments, supplements, and strengthens ongoing regional conservation planning/mapping efforts by those entities.
- The California Strategic Growth Council (SCG) is engaging in Regional Conservation Assessments (RCAs). These will be supplemented by IPAs which will increase the representation of elements critical for the protection of California’s Flora. Furthermore, this will help drive consideration of IPAs during Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS) processes. SCG is represented on our IPA advisory board and will be involved in reviewing iterations of our model.
- The September 7th, 2018 Governors Executive Order on biodiversity directly calls for implementation of the California Biodiversity Initiative. This includes the mapping, modeling, and delineation of IPAs!
California Biodiversity Highlights
Once again, the vote on the proposed Centennial development on Tejon Ranch has been delayed. Here's what you need to know before August 29.
Tejon Ranch is one of California’s most important places for native plants. Now, 30,000 acres of this incredible region is under threat.
CNPS staff and volunteers sampled coastal vegetation at the California Coastal National Monument.