Biodiversity – The Variety of Life on Earth

waterfowl flying over reeds
California coastal oceanscape
close up of turtle

Simply put, biodiversity is the variety of all living things in a given place.

California is the nation’s most populous state and home to more diverse species and ecosystems than anywhere in the U.S. It’s a global biodiversity hot spot, but that biodiversity is also disappearing at one of the highest rates. Direct action by all Californians can help reverse this trend.

September 7, 2019 marks the first official celebration of California Biodiversity Day, an annual event created last year to celebrate the state’s exceptional biodiversity and encourage actions to protect it.

California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot encourages all Californians to get out and explore nature – including link opens in new tab or windowstate parks, wildlife areas and ecological reserves – as part of a biodiversity open house on September 7-8, 2019.

During that weekend’s biodiversity open house event, the state lands below will be hosting events including a link opens in new tab or windowbioblitz - that will take place in partnership with the link opens in new tab or windowCalifornia Academy of Sciences and iNaturalist, a popular nature app that helps identify plants and animals around you. iNaturalist is a collaboration between National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences.

Bioblitzes are events that allow you and other citizen scientists to collect information about the biodiversity in a given area, and anyone can be a citizen scientist with the right tools. To take part in the bioblitz, download the link opens in new tab or windowiNaturalist app on your smart device and join us at one of the following locations.

Bioblitzes and Open Houses

  • Gray Lodge Wildlife Area
    3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 9:00 - 10:30 a.m.
    Additional info: Participants meet in Lot #14 at 9:00 a.m. for a walking tour highlighting the benefits of biodiversity. Please contact Lori Dieter at (530) 846-7505 for further information. CDFW Lands Pass fee information.
  • Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area
    45211 County Road 32B, Parking Lot C, Davis
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
    Additional info: Meet at 9:30 a.m. at Parking Lot C within the wildlife area. link opens in new tab or windowMap (JPG). link opens in new tab or windowRSVP for this event.
  • Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve
    1700 Elkhorn Road, Watsonville
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 11:00 a.m. – noon
    Additional info: To register, please email Ariel Hunter, Community Outreach Coordinator. link opens in new tab or windowWebsite for more information.
  • Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
    Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.
    Additional info: The Bolsa Chica Conservancy will be leading small, 10-15 minute, guided hikes along the Little Mesa Trail just outside the Bolsa Chica Interpretive Center. For more information about these hikes or to RSVP, please contact Whitney Thompson at (714) 846-1114 or Whitney@bolsachica.org.
  • Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve
    Back Bay Science Center, 600 Shellmaker Road, Newport Beach
    Saturday, Sept. 7, noon – 3:00 p.m.
    Additional info: To register, please email Robin Madrid, Education Program Coordinator. link opens in new tab or windowWebsite for more information.
  • link opens in new windowMount Tamalpais State Park
    3801 Panoramic Highway, Mill Valley
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 10:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.
    Additional info: OneTam Roving Ranger "Biodiversity Open House." Meet at Rock Springs Parking Lot. Learn more about Mt. Tam’s incredible biodiversity through visiting our mobile OneTam Roving Ranger. Participants will use iNaturalist and assist State Parks and Marin Municipal Water District scientists in documenting the region’s many plants and wildlife. Fun for all ages!
  • link opens in new windowSamuel P. Taylor State Park
    8889 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, Lagunitas
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 7:30 p.m. – 10:15 p.m.
    Additional info: Nocturnal bioblitz with OneTam and State Parks staff. Contribute to an organized, multi-activity bioblitz focusing on bats and their prey. This event will be hosted by OneTam and State Parks staff and will be capped at 35 participants, so link opens in new windowRSVPs are mandatory. link opens in new windowWebsite for more information.
  • link opens in new tab or windowSilver Strand State Beach
    5000 Highway 75, Coronado
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 7:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. - Self guided beach and bay iNaturalist hikes.
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 12:30 – 3:00 p.m. - Lifeguard Tower Meet-Up: Answer questions about the biodiversity of the beach, bay and strand habitats with San Diego Coast District Interpreter Heather Sanderson.
    Additional info: Visitors will walk along the bayside or beach and use iNaturalist to identify plants and animals within the beach, dune and nearshore habitats. This will not only be a good way to learn to identify coastal Southern California organisms, but it will also build species distribution data that supports State Park Natural Resource Conservation.
  • link opens in new tab or windowPrairie Creek Redwoods State Park
    Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy, Orick
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
    Additional info: Meet at Prairie Creek Campfire Center for registration at 8:00 a.m. Timeline: 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. - Orientation. 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. - Bioblitz. 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. - Refreshments and recap. 
  • link opens in new tab or windowMono Lake Tufa State Natural Preserve
    Highway 395, 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park, near the town of Lee Vining
    Saturday, Sept. 7, 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
    Additional info: We have several events at different locations throughout the day. 8:00 a.m. - Take a bird walk/bioblitz at County Park. 10:00 a.m. - Meet at the Forest Service Scenic Area Visitor Center to talk with State Park staff about the biodiversity of the lake and have an iNaturalist demo. 10:30 a.m. - Leave visitor center for volunteer/staff led walks to selected “hot spot” locales. 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. - Great Sierra River Cleanup in Lee Vining Canyon, recording species along the way. Meet at the Mono Lake Committee office in Lee Vining. 12:00 p.m. - South Tufa walk and bioblitz. 2:00 p.m. - Reconvene at Visitor Center for wrap up. 

You can participate even if you can’t make it to one of these events. Just visit any open, natural space near you and use the iNaturalist app to take photos and identify the organisms that you find on Sept. 7 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Even your backyard can be habitat!

Because we have such a diverse landscape, from deserts to mountain ranges to coastal wetlands and everything in between, California’s ecosystems are host to a vast array of plant and animal species. Conserving these ecosystems requires gathering information on what biodiversity is found where, just like the data collected through iNaturalist. This information is also important to the people of California, since a large part of our successful economy depends on California’s biodiversity and the services that it supports, such as pollination, clean water, open space, recreation, scenic beauty and tourism.

Things to know about California’s biodiversity

  • California is the most biodiverse state in the U.S. and one of the most biodiverse regions of the world.
  • California is a biodiversity hot spot because of its unique geography, climate, geologic history and size.
  • California’s network of terrestrial protected lands covers 46% of the state.
  • More than 30% of California’s species are threatened with extinction.
  • California biodiversity supports ecosystem services that benefit people and the economy, including carbon sequestration, timber production, crop pollination, soil fertility, tourism and recreation.
  • The value of the benefits generated by rich ecosystems and species diminishes as biodiversity is lost.
  • Ecosystems with higher biodiversity are more stable and resilient to stressors and climate change.

Additional information

The "Atlas of the Biodiversity of California" is a fascinating guide to the state's biological resources. The Atlas details the Golden State's biological resources and covers a wide array of terrestrial and aquatic animals. Featured articles by dozens of California Department of Fish and Wildlife experts cover many diverse species, habitats, and programs geared toward conserving and protecting the state's wildlife and wild places.