Los Angeles Launches #BioDiversifyLA to Protect Region's Rare Biodiversity

Press conference biodiversity.jpg

(Photo credit: Office of Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, CD-5)

How did you celebrate Earth Day on Wednesday? I rang in the 45th anniversary of our planetary celebration in a sunny corner of Los Angeles City Hall's native plant garden, standing with L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD-5) and representatives from other community and environmental groups as we launched #BioDiversifyLA, a year-long effort to assess, protect, manage and restore the unique biodiversity of the Los Angeles region.

Los Angeles probably isn't the first place you think of when you hear the phrase "biodiversity hotspot." But that's exactly what's all around us, from the birds in the Ballona Creek watershed to the sagebrush in the canyons of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. (Not to mention all the recently discovered critters, some of them completely unique to our region, that live in your backyard.) L.A. lies within the California Floristic Province, which is globally recognized as one of just thirty-five biodiversity hotspots in the world -- and the only one in the continental United States.

Though it sometimes may be hard to see, we're living off the riches of this biodiversity. Biodiverse communities provide ecosystem services like oxygen generation, water purification, and waste removal. And access to the natural landscapes that support biodiversity provide a critical respite from busy urban lives.

But there's currently no framework in place to help us understand the biodiversity that surrounds us, and no cohesive plan to protect it from threats of growing development, severe drought, or climate change. We will need just this sort of plan very soon, as Mayor Garcetti's Sustainable City pLAn calls for a "no net loss" biodiversity strategy by 2017.

That's where #BioDiversifyLA comes in.

The effort, which includes partnerships with various City departments, local scientists, and groups like NRDC, the Urban Wildlands Group, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, and Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife, calls upon City officials to report on their current and future strategies for protecting biodiversity. It'll also convene a technical advisory committee tasked with coming up with City-wide strategies for protecting and enhancing biodiversity.

One potential strategy? Implement the City Biodiversity Index, a self-assessment tool to document a city's existing native biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides and set conservation targets. Another strategy is to better incorporate conservation of the region's rich biodiversity into planning and permitting processes.

Councilmember Koretz said, "The survival and well-being of Angelenos depends directly upon the services provided by our natural world. The health and well-being of our natural world depends directly on us." With #BioDiversifyLA, Los Angeles has an opportunity to ensure the continued existence of the biodiversity that makes our region so unique. NRDC and others will be working to help ensure this opportunity is realized.

A big thank you to my colleague Julie Mendel for contributing to this post.