Rising seas, droughts, invasive species, and fires are some of the impacts Northern California can expect as the world warms. Climate change is dramatically altering the San Francisco Bay Area's ecosystems and raising profound questions among conservationists about how to help species best adapt to new conditions.
The San Francisco Bay Area may be one of the densest metropolitan areas of the country, but roughly 40 percent of the region's total land area is comprised of farms and rangelands. As such, the Bay Area has been at the forefront of the local food movement where the concern about growing food in balance with nature has a head seat at the table.
The San Francisco Bay Area's crazy quilt-pattern of rock formations -- shaped by earthquakes -- are the key to understanding the region's landscapes. From ice-age dune sand in San Francisco to recently subsided land in the Santa Clara Valley or the veritable maze of earthquake faults in the East Bay, the geology is a fascinating blueprint of the region's natural history.
As the region's name implies, water is a defining feature of the Bay Area. The largest Pacific estuary in the Americas -- the San Francisco Bay -- is the foundation for one of California's most important ecological habitats and a link to the Pacific flyway. Meanwhile, the Pacific coastline connects the region to the global marine environment, bringing about a set of vulnerabilities and advantages apparent in a complex world.
From coastal prairie to salt marshes and redwood forests, the San Francisco Bay Area has an incredibly diverse landscape that makes it one of the nation's biodiversity hotspots. Keeping it that way in the face of development has been a challenge for conservationists whose goals are seeing more and more support from an eco-minded populace.
Human settlement in the San Francisco Bay Area dates back 7,000 years to early Native American settlements. Today, the region is a teeming metropolis of 6 million people that collectively challenge the health of the region's ecosystems. How it got this way -- from Spanish acquisition to the Gold Rush boom and on to contemporary battles over land development -- is a story that prompts a deeper understanding of our place in the landscape.
Children are quite naturally drawn to the swallowtail flitting about in the air or the shard of greywacke underfoot, which may be why the San Francisco Bay Area has an extensive array of programming to support little people with big curiosities. Connecting kids to the outdoors helps instill a lifelong respect for nature and may be the key to protecting the Bay Area's wildlife and open spaces in times to come.
From majestic 300-foot redwoods to the luscious black witch's butter mushroom, the San Francisco Bay Area is alive with plants and fungi. Yet many of these rooted natives are threatened by the twin forces of development and invasive species, making their survival particularly critical for the food web.
Getting out into nature is part of the cultural fabric of the San Francisco Bay Area, thanks to the region's impressive landscapes and rich natural resources. From hiking to birdwatching and painting, the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding hills and beaches offer a myriad of ways to connect with the outdoors and find inspiration in what nature offers.
California's state park system is the largest and most diverse natural and cultural heritage holdings in the nation. Yet the century-and-a-half-old system has been in perpetual crisis mode for several decades, battered about by funding shortfalls and repeated threats of closures. How California parks -- from redwood forests to coastal bluffs and historic monuments -- will continue to survive is a story that ardent citizen supporters are striving to determine.
The San Francisco Bay Area is bejeweled with hundreds of parks and open space preserves as well as a rich set of laws and policies meant to ensure the survival of vulnerable species and ecosystems. Real people made this happen through a dedicated call to stewardship. The organizations they've founded and developed have created a lasting framework for conservation to remain a public value.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, slices of nature pop up in the most unexpected places, a testament to the region's wealth in biodiversity and the resilience of its natural systems. Bringing nature to urban areas is not just about ensuring the survival of species, but enhancing people's quality of life through a fulfillment of our innate need to be with nature.
Sea otters, brown pelicans, chinook salmon, tule elk: these are just some of the amazing species that inhabit the San Francisco Bay Area. Their charisma has inspired countless conservation efforts and have enticed everyday people and impassioned naturalists into the wild.
To some, species such as nudibranchs, sweat bees, tarantulas, and red-legged frogs are lumped into the great wide world of creepy-crawlies. But these underfoot and underwater animals can be surprisingly interesting, albeit sometimes obscure. The sense of wonder and curiosity that these species spark is a reminder of wildlife's inherent value, no matter the size or number of legs.