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Information Center for the Environment Publications

The Information Center for the Environment does research and development on environmental information systems, especially for biodiversity, land use, and water quality. To do so, it has formed partnerships with over 30 state, federal, and international agencies and a variety of environmental and land management organizations. The Center hosts a number of public environmental and natural resource databases, most available over the Internet, and provides technical support to decision makers in a number of areas of public policy. Currently funded research topics include, biodiversity in parks and reserves, invasive species, water quality in rivers, sources and management practices for non-point-source water pollution, protection of drinking water, watershed assessment and monitoring, floodplain restoration, land use planning and law, and stakeholder processes for watershed protection, as well as research into the next generation of remote sensing, geographic analysis, and semantic web technologies. The Center also provides Geographic Information System data and spatial technology tool development for a variety of other research projects in ecology and natural resource management at the University of California and among state and federal agencies in California. Center staff include individuals with many years of experience teaching technology and science-based courses, including Land Use Planning, Geographic Information Systems, Remote Sensing, Spatial Analysis, and Watershed Analysis.

Cover page of BioMove - Improvement and Parameterization of a Hybrid Model fo the ASsessment of Climate Change impacts on the Vegetation of California

BioMove - Improvement and Parameterization of a Hybrid Model fo the ASsessment of Climate Change impacts on the Vegetation of California

(2015)

There is substantial evidence that climate change is affecting ecosystems worldwide.

California is no exception. With insights from historic climate change and subsequent

species’ responses, scientists are developing refined tools to evaluate how species change

may continue in the future and what impact this may have on biodiversity and

conservation. Bioclimatic envelope modeling is one approach to modeling species

distribution. However, it has many shortcomings by neglecting to account for

individualistic species response or inter specific competition. Furthermore, bioclimatic

envelope models do not account for species dispersal constraints or those imposed by

disturbances such as land use change or fire. BioMove is a novel spatially explicit,

dynamic species modeling approach developed to address these issues. It simulates a

target species in a dynamic landscape, competing with a target species in competition

with one or many PFTs. It combines various sub-models to integrate competition,

dispersal and disturbance. It has important application potential for threatened species

assessment, management coordination and decision support, invasive species modeling

and other advanced climate change research.

Cover page of The Implications of Global Climate Change for Mountain Gorilla Conservation

The Implications of Global Climate Change for Mountain Gorilla Conservation

(2015)

Efforts in biodiversity conservation have long embraced the task of reducing the impactsof the stressors imposed by anthropogenic and environmental changes. In the past, moststressors have been either on-going but gradual or incremental, such as pollution ordeforestation, or one-time catastrophic events, such as large oil spills, or a severe drought. Theprevailing conservation principle has been to plan for a static protected area or series of protectedareas, with the goal of preserving important specific habitat types, or biodiversity assemblages.The assumption has been that if properly protected, these ecosystems would remain stable(Hansen et al., 2009). Climate change has created new challenges in biodiversity conservation.While it is already changing ecosystems across the globe, it will continue to do so for decadesand perhaps centuries to come, and at a faster pace than originally anticipated (Hansen et al.,2009). The current pace of change is unprecedented in evolutionary history (Barnosky et al.,2003).Climate change is reshaping how we think about conservation. Even if fully protectedfrom the ongoing threats imposed by human activities, the ecosystems and biota we have beenprotecting will not remain the same. Conservation planners must change the way decisions aremade because aspects of the environment we have always considered to be relatively constant,including weather patterns, water supply, temperature extremes, even biotic communities, will bechanging. This is a difficult endeavor because, not only can we not predict exactly how thingswill change, but we don’t know when they will achieve a new stable state. We can no longerplan for stasis.With these ideas in mind, the African Wildlife Foundation and the International GorillaConservation Programme have partnered with EcoAdapt to initiate the development of anadaptation framework to address climate change in planning in the continuing efforts to conservemountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) in East Africa. With a grant by the John D. andCatherine T. MacArthur Foundation, a series of Climate Camp workshops in the region wereheld and expert research commissioned to produce this initial White Paper. The work focuses onbuilding understanding and assessing the scope for reducing the vulnerability of mountaingorillas to regional and global changes expected to occur as a result of climate change. The goalis to reduce the vulnerability of mountain gorillas to the negative effects of climate change byunderstanding and accommodating its effects on their habitat, food supply, and access to waterresources. The specific task of the White Paper preparation process was to carry out initialmulti-stakeholder assessment of the implications of global climate change for mountain gorillaconservation in the Albertine Rift, and identify key elements of an adaptation framework,including priority adaptation strategies and actions.

Cover page of Biomass, Carbon Sequestration, and Avoided Emissions:  Assessing the Role of Urban Trees in California

Biomass, Carbon Sequestration, and Avoided Emissions:  Assessing the Role of Urban Trees in California

(2015)

This report represents a collaborative effort between the Information Center for the Environment, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis (UCD-ICE); the Urban Ecosystems and Social Dynamics Program, Pacific Southwest Research Station, USDA Forest Service (USFS-PSWRS); and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Fire and Resource Assessment Program (CAL FIRE-FRAP), to assess the current status of the tree canopy and associated benefits within the urban areas of California. In addition, the current status of environmental threats to the urban area population were also examined, in order to highlight the communities most vulnerable and potentially the most likely to benefit from tree plantings and maintenance.

Cover page of A Reference Manual for Caltrans Staff on Regional Advance Mitigation Impact Assessment Methods

A Reference Manual for Caltrans Staff on Regional Advance Mitigation Impact Assessment Methods

(2015)

This manual reviews the motivations and methods for transportation project impact assessment under the Regional Advance Mitigation Planning (RAMP) framework. RAMP is a process that creates an inventory of expected environmental impacts from multiple transportation (or other development) projects within a region (Thorne et al. 2009; Thorne et al. 2014). When conducted early in the lifecycle of the projects, such as after projects are identified on long-range transportation plans but prior to being programmed, proposed mitigation can be developed earlier, resulting in efficiencies for both project delivery and budget, and effectiveness of the mitigation developed. The RAMP approach can help avoid the cost of delays and over-runs due to late and fragmented project-by-project environmental planning and mitigation, which in California has been estimated by Caltrans internal reports at $59 million per year (Byrne 2005).

Cover page of 2015 Mitigation Needs Assessment for Transportation Projects for the Sacramento Valley Pilot Project for Regional Advance Mitigation Planning

2015 Mitigation Needs Assessment for Transportation Projects for the Sacramento Valley Pilot Project for Regional Advance Mitigation Planning

(2015)

This report documents an assessment of the potential environmental impacts of transportation projects under development by Caltrans for a study area. The report is an update of a previous study, overseen by the by the Regional Advance Mitigation Planning (RAMP) working group (Regional Advance Mitigation Planning Work Group, 2011). The RAMP working group previously selected the pilot project area as a useful area in which to provide an application and test of methods to conduct a regional accounting of the expected impacts from multiple projects. This approach to impact assessment is an integral part of developing regional advance mitigation planning methodologies.

 

This report provides an overview of the legal obligations for Caltrans with regard to compensatory mitigation, with a listing of the federal and state acts that require special consideration, consultation or permits for impacts to species or habitat, and to the waters of the United States and California, including wetlands. Also provided within each regulation is the presiding jurisdiction or agency that issues the consultation and/or permit and a definition of what the law protects.

Cover page of A Review of Lessons Learned through the RAMP Working Group, Addendum to the Draft Statewide Framework

A Review of Lessons Learned through the RAMP Working Group, Addendum to the Draft Statewide Framework

(2015)

This document is a review of insights and lessons learned in the years since the RAMP working group developed its Draft Statewide Framework (AECOM 2012). It has been developed by the University of California, Davis (UCD), and is intended primarily to supply additional perspective to Caltrans, through a synthesis of information gathered during an impact analysis for a pilot project, from a series of interviews with agency personnel, from a project developed for the Transportation Research Board by UCD, and from ongoing discussions in RAMP’s multi-agency working group.

Cover page of 4.2: Assessment of Landscape Context

4.2: Assessment of Landscape Context

(2013)

This Natural Resources Condition Assessment (NRCA) is part of a Servicewide eff ort in the National Park Service

(NPS) to complete comparable NRCAs for each of 270 NPS units across the 32 NPS Vital Signs Monitoring

networks between 2006 and 2014. The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (parks) approach is unique

in several particulars: (1) its construction was made possible through signifi cant added park base funds; (2) the

parks professional staff and university partners were equally challenged to work cooperatively to create “actionable

results;” and (3) more than 80 professionals contributed to authoring and presenting this 2,600+ page condition

assessment.

Cover page of Urban Growth in California: Projecting growth in California (2000-2050) under six alternative policy scenarios and assessing impacts to future dispersal corridors, fire threats and climate-sensitive agriculture.Urban Growth in California: Projecting Growth in California (2000-2050) under six alternative policy scenarios and assessing impacts to future dispersal corridors, fire threats and climate-sensitive agriculture.

Urban Growth in California: Projecting growth in California (2000-2050) under six alternative policy scenarios and assessing impacts to future dispersal corridors, fire threats and climate-sensitive agriculture.Urban Growth in California: Projecting Growth in California (2000-2050) under six alternative policy scenarios and assessing impacts to future dispersal corridors, fire threats and climate-sensitive agriculture.

(2012)

This paper documents the development of land use models that represent different urban growth policy scenarios for California, a contribution to the Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Climate Vulnerability and Assessment Project of 2010–2011. The research team produced six UPlan model runs that portray the following policies as footprint scenarios to 2050: Business as Usual, Smart Growth, Fire Adaptation, Infill, Conservation of Projected Connectivity for Plant Movement under Climate Change, and Conservation of Vulnerable Agricultural Lands. This paper compares the outputs from these six scenarios on outputs from three other PIER vulnerability studies: biodiversity, fire return interval, and agricultural sensitivity. While not directly targeting any conservation or agricultural objective, the Infill scenario preserved more open space for other use than any of the other scenarios. The results suggest that combining Infill objectives with other open space goals will produce better conservation goals for those objectives than merely directing growth away from landscape elements of conservation interest.

Cover page of Development and application of downscaled hydroclimatic predictor variables for use in climate vulnerability and assessment studies.

Development and application of downscaled hydroclimatic predictor variables for use in climate vulnerability and assessment studies.

(2012)

This paper outlines the production of 270 meter grid‐scale maps for 14 climate and derivative

hydrologic variables for a region that encompasses the State of California and all the streams

that flow into it. The paper describes the Basin Characterization Model (BCM), a map‐based,

mechanistic model used to process the hydrological variables. Three historic and three future

time periods of 30 years (1911–1940, 1941–1970, 1971–2000, 2010–2039, 2040–2069, and 2070–

2099) were developed that summarize 180 years of monthly historic and future climate values.

These comprise a standardized set of fine‐scale climate data that were shared with 14 research

groups, including the U.S. National Park Service and several University of California groups as

part of this project. The paper presents three analyses done with the outputs from the Basin

Characterization Model: trends in hydrologic variables over baseline, the most recent 30‐year

period; a calibration and validation effort that uses measured discharge values from 139

streamgages and compares those to Basin Characterization Model‐derived projections of

discharge for the same basins; and an assessment of the trends of specific hydrological variables

that links historical trend to projected future change under four future climate projections.

Overall, increases in potential evapotranspiration dominate other influences in future

hydrologic cycles. Increased potential evapotranspiration drives decreasing runoff even under

forecasts with increased precipitation, and drives increased climatic water deficit, which may

lead to conversion of dominant vegetation types across large parts of the study region, as well

as have implications for rain‐fed agriculture. The potential evapotranspiration is driven by air

temperatures, and the Basin Characterization Model permits it to be integrated with a water

balance model that can be derived for landscapes and summarized by watershed. These results

show the utility of using a process‐based model with modules representing different

hydrological pathways that can be interlinked.