Biodiversity Conservation

San Diego is known as a biodiversity hotspot, containing greater diversity of life than any other county in the continental United States. It is also home to the greatest number of plant and animal species threatened with extinction anywhere in the country. 

What is a biodiversity hotspot?

Biodiversity simply refers to the immense variety of life on the planet.  It can be considered at many different levels, from the variety of genes found within a species, to the number of species found within an ecosystem, to the number of ecosystems found within a landscape.

A biodiversity hotspot is a region that contains at least 1,500 endemic plants – plants that exist nowhere else on the planet, and one that has lost at least 70% of its original habitat.  In other words, it is region that contains extraordinarily high levels of biodiversity that are also facing extraordinary threats.

Threats to San Diego’s biodiversity include climate change, invasive species, fire disturbances, and habitat loss and fragmentation driven by human activities.  

 Why is biodiversity important?

The variety of life on the planet sustains humanity in myriad ways, including:

Provisioning of food, fresh water, fuelwood, fiber, and biochemicals used for medicine; water and air purification; climate regulation; pollination; disease regulation; erosion control; regulation of water flow; regulation of extreme weather events; soil formation and retention; cycling of elements critical to life (ie: nitrogen, carbon, phosphorus).

When we understand our interconnectedness with and dependence on the natural world, it is easy to understand how the current extinction crisis puts us all in peril.


What is Earth Discovery Institute doing?

EDI partners with land managers to restore native habitats on protected lands.  

Habitat restoration often includes the removal of nonnative invasive plant species because they reduce biodiversity, drive extinctions, alter ecosystem processes, and reduce resilience of the system to climate change.  After removing the nonnative species, we replant and seed with native plant species.  Once restored, these areas are soon reoccupied by the community of native wildlife species that depend upon them.

EDI also undertakes projects that benefit rare and endangered species, for targeted species conservation.  Currently, we are partnering with San Diego Pollinator Alliance and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a regional conservation strategy for the recovery of the western monarch butterfly, which focuses on its host plant, the narrow-leaf milkweed (Asclepias fasicularis). Learn more about this initiative and how you can help, here.


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