Climatic Change

, Volume 109, Supplement 1, pp 465-484

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The impact of climate change on California’s ecosystem services

  • M. Rebecca ShawAffiliated withThe Environmental Defense Fund Email author 
  • , Linwood PendletonAffiliated withThe Nicholas Institute, Duke University
  • , D. Richard CameronAffiliated withThe Environmental Defense Fund
  • , Belinda MorrisAffiliated withEnvironmental Defense Fund
  • , Dominique BacheletAffiliated withUSDA Forest Service, Oregon State University
  • , Kirk KlausmeyerAffiliated withThe Environmental Defense Fund
  • , Jason MacKenzieAffiliated withThe Environmental Defense Fund
  • , David R. ConklinAffiliated withConservation Biology Institute
  • , Gregrory N. BratmanAffiliated withStanford University
    • , James LenihanAffiliated withUSDA Forest Service, Oregon State University
    • , Erik HaunreiterAffiliated withThe Environmental Defense Fund
    • , Christopher DalyAffiliated withConservation Biology Institute
    • , Patrick R. RoehrdanzAffiliated withUniversity of California at Santa Barbara


Ecosystem services play a crucial role in sustaining human well-being and economic viability. People benefit substantially from the delivery of ecosystem services, for which substitutes usually are costly or unavailable. Climate change will substantially alter or eliminate certain ecosystem services in the future. To better understand the consequences of climate change and to develop effective means of adapting to them, it is critical that we improve our understanding of the links between climate, ecosystem service production, and the economy. This study examines the impact of climate change on the terrestrial distribution and the subsequent production and value of two key ecosystem services in California: (1) carbon sequestration and (2) natural (i.e. non-irrigated) forage production for livestock. Under various scenarios of future climate change, we predict that the provision and value of ecosystem services decline under most, but not all, future greenhouse gas trajectories. The predicted changes would result in decreases in the economic output for the state and global economy and illustrate some of the hidden costs of climate change. Since existing information is insufficient to conduct impact analysis across most ecosystem services, a comprehensive research program focused on estimating the impacts of climate change on ecosystem services will be important for understanding, mitigating and adapting to future losses in ecosystem service production and the economic value they provide.