Enhancing Biodiversity for the City of Los Angeles

Project Summary

The City of Los Angeles lies within one of the 35 recognized biodiversity hotspots in the world. These hotspots have been designated due to high species richness and endemism and are recognized as conservation priorities. Los Angeles is unique for its high natural resources including over 150 threatened and endangered species and 37 vegetation alliances, while also having the highest human density of any U.S. city. This presents many challenges for fostering biodiversity within the human-dominated landscape. However, urban natural areas can provide habitat connectivity and support conservation of numerous sensitive species. A preliminary analysis of L.A.’s urban biodiversity indicates that there are high levels of native biodiversity, including more than 1,200 native species and many opportunities to enhance this urban ecosystem. This project aims to achieve the goal of protecting and enhancing urban biodiversity in LA through three main objectives: (1) develop an L.A. Biodiversity Index as a tool to monitor the change in biodiversity over time; (2) implement a strategic plan for city departments to comply with and; (3) define specific biodiversity metrics and goals for the city that will be listed in the Sustainability pLAn’s 4-year Update. The study represents the first effort by the City of L.A. to assess, manage and enhance urban biodiversity and recognize it as a priority initiative within the City’s Sustainability Plan.

Research Team

Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences

Advisor: Gregory Grether
Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Life Sciences

Advisor: Lauren Faber O'Connor
Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Los Angeles

Progress and Results

To date, this project assisted with the characterization of current urban biodiversity through conducting a Biodiversity Analysis based on community science data. These results of this preliminary analysis indicate that LA needs to focus on increasing connectivity between natural areas and improve access through a more equitable distribution of natural areas. In addition, this study organized and compiled data to complete a city-wide tree species inventory for Urban Forestry - Street Trees, Rec and Parks and the River Team and created recommendations based on microclimates and landscape type for planting. Finally, the project led to the formation of a UCLA Biodiversity Working Group that promotes collaboration and data sharing to ensure that the metrics used in the Sustainability Plan Update for biodiversity are based on the most accurate data to date.

As the project moves forward, researchers will develop biodiversity guidelines based on a comprehensive analysis of strategies developed by landscape architects, urban ecologists and city managers across the globe as well as conducting a pilot study to apply these guidelines to a specific council district.

Project image showing view of Los Angeles from Griffith Park Observatory


Award Year