Important Plant Areas (IPAs)

Blue Oak at dawn

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.

Important Plant Areas: California Central Valley Pilot Model Presentation

This presentation documents preliminary results from the CNPS Important Plant Areas Model for the California Central Valley. Modeling was conducted following a 2017 expert workshop in Bakersfield, CA . Iterations are based on feedback from internal CNPS review and feedback from the Technical Advisory Committee.These are preliminary results and will be reviewed by data contributors later this year during a demonstrative webinar (to be scheduled). The model will be reiterated and results updated based on feedback received. If you would like to learn more about the IPA model or are interested in reviewing IPA model results please contact Sam Young, Important Plant Areas Program Manager, at syoung@cnps.org.

FAQs

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

The public:
1)    Promote IPAs
2)    Donate!

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!

Support the IPA Initiative!

Help fund CNPS Important Plant Area work. Together, we can save what matters most!

Donate Now

California Biodiversity Highlights

Channel Islands

Channel Islands

The Channel Islands represent a seaward extension of the transverse ranges. The Islands’ isolation from the mainland has resulted in a unique flora and fauna including 14 federally endangered plant species. Photo: Todd Keeler-Wolf

High Sierra

High Sierra

The rocky wall of the eastern Sierran slope forms a geographic barrier and creates climatic conditions which help to make California a global biodiversity hotspot. Photo: Jeff Bisbee

Monterey Peninsula

Monterey Peninsula

The Monterey Peninsula is home to numerous endemic species. The close proximity of rocky shores, sand dunes, rugged mountains, oak woodlands, and coast redwood canyons make the Monterey Peninsula truly unique. Photo: Carol Highsmith/PICRYL

Modoc Plateau

Modoc Plateau

Modoc Plateau is a unique landscape formed by extensive lava flows. The uplifted terrain forms a broad transition between the east slope of the Cascades and the northern Great Basin and Range province. Photo: Petr Brož/WikimediaCommons

Fern Canyon

Fern Canyon

With towering redwoods and stunning fern-covered walls, this canyon attracts thousands of visitors every year. Sharply transitioning from coastal dunes to prairie to redwood forest, California’s North Coast  is one of the centers for botanical endemism in California.  Photo from Public Domain

Torrey Pines State Reserve

Torrey Pines State Reserve

The Torrey pine (Pinus torreyana) is one of the rarest trees in the world, found only on Santa Rosa Island and the eponymous Torrey Pines State Reserve. The reserve is home to a variety of coastal habitats that are diminishing elsewhere in San Diego County. Photo: FeldBum/Wikimedia Commons

Mendocino Pygmy Forests

Mendocino Pygmy Forests

The rare Mendocino pygmy cypress woodlands are the product of nutrient poor acidic soils formed on marine terraces rising from the ocean like a giant sandstone staircase. Photo: Sam Young

Northern Baja California

Northern Baja California

Northern Baja California represents the southern boundary of the California Floristic Province as the climate shifts from Mediterranean to Desert. San Quintin is located near this transition, and hosts volcanic cones with endemic succulents and wetlands on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. Photo: Sam Young

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park straddles the divide between the higher elevation Mojave Desert and lower, hotter Sonoran Desert. It boasts nearly 750 native species of vascular plants, so many that it was almost named Desert Plants National park. Photo: Sam Young

Carrizo Plain

Carrizo Plain

There are few places left in California where visitors can experience vast hillsides cloaked in a kaleidoscope of colors from a myriad of showy wildflowers. The Carrrizo Plain is also home to a herd of pronghorn and a newly re-introduced herd of tule elk. Carrizo is unique place where Californians can gain a glimpse of how the state used to be. Photo: Dan Gluesenkamp

Mather Field Vernal Pools

Mather Field Vernal Pools

Vernal pools fill with water in the rainy season and transform to concentric blooms of wildflowers in the spring. Special pools like those found at Mather Field feature a variety of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Photo: Greg Suba

Klamath Mountains

Klamath Mountains

Proposed as a UNESCO biosphere reserve, the Klamath mountain ranges’ serpentine-rich, rugged terrain is home to globally significant biodiversity. Photo: Bob Wick

Sierra Foothills

Sierra Foothills

The western slope of the Sierra Nevada ranges spills into Cismontane California as the Sierran Block continues to tilt westward. The product of this are the rolling foothills which are home to a large variety of vegetation types which span both the elevational gradient between the Great Valley floor and California’s Sierran roof. Photo: Bob Wick

Coast Redwood Forest

Coast Redwood Forest

Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are the world’s tallest trees, relict from a cooler, wetter past. Now they are restricted to the foggy coasts from southern Oregon to Mendocino County with disjunct distributions in southern Marin County, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the Big Sur coast on the rugged west slope of the Santa Lucias. Photo: National Park Service

Colorado Desert

Colorado Desert

Remnants of a more tropical past, California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera) oases have provided nourishment and refuge to wildlife and humans alike for thousands of years.

Bodie Hills

Bodie Hills

The Bodie Hills are an intact transition zone between the vegetation of the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin Desert, creating one of the highest levels of biodiversity present in the Great Basin region. Photo: Bob Wick

Tejon Ranch

Tejon Ranch

Tejon Ranch is one of the last great expanses of natural habitats on private land in Southern California. Located at the junction of five major ecoregions, it hosts more than 14 of the native California flora on just 0.25% of the state’s acreage. It is also one of the best places in California to see splendid displays of wildflowers. Photo: Nancy Buck

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