New Scientific Evidence on Climate Benefits of Ecosystem Management in California

New study published by Conservancy scientists finds natural climate solutions are an immediate and viable way to help mitigate climate change and meet California’s long-term climate goals.

BONN | November 13, 2017

A new peer-reviewed study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences from scientists at The Nature Conservancy found that natural climate solutions are an immediate and viable way to help mitigate climate change and meet California’s long-term climate goals.

It is the first ever study quantifying how much the restoration, conservation, and management of the California’s lands could contribute to the state’s ambitious climate target. The study can support state efforts to incorporate land-based climate strategies into plans to meet the 2030 goals set by the legislature, and follows the launch of The Nature Conservancy-led study on global natural climate solutions, launched in mid-October. 

“California is taking the lead with ambitious climate change goals, but we can’t meet these long-term goals without including natural and working lands,” said Dick Cameron, Director of Science, Land Programs at The Nature Conservancy in California. “By conserving, restoring, and managing lands differently, we have the potential to significantly contribute to California’s 2030 climate change goals and serve as a model for other states and countries, while fostering many other public benefits.”

“California’s natural and working lands give us clean water to drink, support food production, retain habitat for wildlife, and provide millions of jobs,” said Mary Nichols, Chairwoman of the California Air Resources Board. “We now know that California’s landscapes also play a crucial role in fighting climate change. This study demonstrates that California’s lands can help us meet our climate goals, and shows specific ways that better management and protection of our landscapes could do that.”

“As farmers, we see the effects of climate change first-hand,” said Jean Okuye, an almond farmer in Merced. “This study shows that managing, conserving and restoring lands can be part of a portfolio of land management techniques that landowners could implement to help fight climate change. Many of us want to find ways to help address climate change, while maintaining our way of life.”

Quick Facts on Study Findings

  • Improving land use in California could contribute as much as 17 percent of the emissions reductions required to meet the state’s 2030 climate mitigation target (40% below 1990 levels). In 2030, the projected total median annual reductions achieved by implementing the 14 activities modeled is 12.1 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent, under an ambitious implementation scenario.
  • Most reductions are predicted to come from changes in forest management (61 percent of 2050 projected cumulative reductions), followed by reforestation (14 percent), avoided conversion (11 percent), compost amendments to grasslands (9 percent), and wetland and grassland restoration (5 percent).
  • Conserving and managing natural and agricultural lands to retain and absorb GHGs are tools that have not been widely integrated into climate policy, but there is a growing global recognition that it’s important. An aggressive implementation scenario provided over 2x the benefit of a limited implementation scenario.
  • The implementation of the proposed activities would help ensure that the state’s natural and working lands are a part of the state’s climate solution, helping the state potentially exceed its climate goals.

Many of the activities analyzed in the study are cost-effective, adaptable, and being considered as fundable actions to mitigate climate change. 

Media contact: Kayla Ermanni (, +1-202-800-7408)

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Ciaran Clayton
Director of Global Media Relations
+1 (703) 841-4253
+1 (202) 321-2744 (mobile)

Heather Gately
California Media Relations Associate Director
+1 (773) 474-4500 (mobile)

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