Habitats of the CVJV

Once a vast mosaic of wetlands, riverside forests, grasslands, oak woodlands, vernal pools, and saltbush scrub, the Central Valley has lost almost all native habitat through conversion to agriculture, river channelization, and urban development. Despite these losses, the Central Valley hosts one of the largest concentrations of migratory birds in the world. It’s estimated that more than 100 million birds of approximately 400 species use the Central Valley during all or part of their life cycles.

The Central Valley Joint Venture boundary stretches 450 miles down the center of California, extending from the crest of the Sierra mountains, west, to the crest of California’s coastal mountain range. It totals over 31 million acres. The Valley floor, our primary focus area, provides some of the most important bird habitat in North America. The foothills/grassland ring around the Valley and up to the mountain crests defines the Secondary Focus Area planning region.

Aerial Photo of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, showing flooded wetlands surrounded by flooded rice.
Wetlands of the Central Valley

There are a variety of wetland types that contribute to the mosaic of habitat that waterfowl, shorebirds, and other wetland-dependent wildlife rely on each year. Each wetland type requires different water management, both in terms of the overall volume of water that must be applied and timing of delivery. 

Stream and Riverside Forests (Riparian Habitat)

Riparian habitats are transitional areas between land and water ecosystems, ranging from swift rapids and waterfalls of steep canyons to slow moving water in floodplains. Riparian vegetation is structurally complex and may contain a canopy, subcanopy, and understory layers. Stream and riverside forests that are located adjacent to other valuable bird habitats, such as wetlands, are particularly important.

Aerial photo of Dos Rios Ranch, showing a vast green landscape, a mosaic of crops, orchards and natural riverside habitat.
Springtime Vernal Pool full of yellow flowers surrounded by green grasses.

Grasslands are landscapes dominated by grasses and other herbaceous plant species with few trees. Oak savannahs are similar but have up to 40% tree canopy, dominated by oaks (Quercus spp.). These habitats are an important component of Central Valley uplands, forming a ring of open country, low-elevation foothills and rangelands surrounding the valley floor. Roughly 60 percent of the Central Valley’s historic grasslands have been lost due to conversion to intensive agriculture and urban development.

Wet meadows are a rare but important component of the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades, and their conservation value far outweighs the 2% land cover they represent. Mountain meadows provide diverse ecological services when healthy, and they are also biodiversity hotspots that provide important habitat for numerous species, including the state endangered Willow Flycatcher

Mountain meadows are ecologically distinct and are treated separately from valley and foothill grasslands. Within the CVJV planning region there is an estimated 169,252 acres (Roberts et al. 2022. Foothills to Summit. Point Blue Conservation Science, Petaluma, CA). 

Riparian habitat in the morning fog.
Central Valley

Habitat Objectives

Our Plan establishes short-term habitat objectives, integrated across all bird groups, to guide conservation efforts over the next ten years.

Table showing CVJV habitat objectives in each planning region for managed semi-permanent wetlands, managed seasonal wetlands, managed seasonal wetland enhancement, riparian habitat, winter-flooded rice, agricultural easements, grasslands and oak savannah.

CVJV 2020 Implementation Plan