Home to nearly ten million people, Los Angeles County hardly seems like a center for anything other than human diversity from the outside. Despite its status as a major urban center, LA County also contains over 4,000 species of plants and animals within its borders. Of these species, 52 are endangered. This makes this area of the United States the second most diverse county located outside of the state of Hawaii.
UCLA researchers set out to map the biodiversity around them in an effort to showcase and conserve the vibrant life around them. This effort is in part guided by the United Nations estimate that one million species of plants and animals will become extinct due to human activity. The researchers worked to document and map out the species in LA County to promote conservation efforts and contribute to global biodiversity data.
The Biodiversity Atlas of Los Angeles
The biodiversity map was published as the Biodiversity Atlas of Los Angeles. Users can enter an address in the county in order to see the species located in that area and the likelihood of discovering specific species of plants and animals. The researchers hope that by interacting with endangered plants and animals on the digital map will encourage people to go out and identify those species in their neighborhoods and beyond. This allows people to connect with these species and better promote the ideas behind conservation.
Users of the Biodiversity Atlas can also view geographic features and see how climate change and manmade infrastructure can impact plant and animal habitats. Users can see the impact of non-native species of plants and animals, along with information about how certain changes can impact wildfire seasons in the years to come. The researchers included information about past events, like wildfire and weather data, in addition to future forecast models.
Encouraging Knowledge of Biodiversity
The UCLA researchers hope that conservation and restoration efforts will be supported by people who know and are inspired by the biodiversity around them. Many people don’t know the plants and animals that live around them; increasing awareness can encourage people to see why protecting biodiverse areas is incredibly important.
The research team wanted to show some of the positive results of the study that they found. For instance, areas of Santa Monica and the city of LA have become greener since 2000 because of tree planting efforts and increases in public green spaces. Additionally, there have been multi-agency efforts to decrease light pollution in protected wilderness areas that have succeeded.
The next step in this research is to map patterns in the biodiversity of LA County and create priorities for conservation and restoration efforts.
Funding for this research came from UCLA’s Sustainable LA Grand Challenge, which has the goal of turning LA into the most sustainable megacity using data gathered by researchers at UCLA by the year 2050.
Miura, Lauren. LA County’s biodiversity is on the map, thanks to UCLA researchers. 30 April 2020. Retrieved from https://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/la-county-biodiversity-atlas