Securing the future of our natural systems

The California Heartbeat Initiative (CHI) uses cutting edge technology and research to understand how state ecosystems respond to a changing climate. The project deploys ground-based instrumentation, and remote sensing technologies to understand how water filters through the landscape and invigorates ecosystems. Its findings will help California forecast how climate warming affects natural systems, forecasts changes to wildland habitats, and make wiser choices about water use.

The UC Natural Reserve System is the backbone of all CHI endeavors. With its diverse network of protected wildlands, the NRS is an ideal platform for research that seeks to secure a resilient future for humans and the natural world. CHI research benefits from longstanding NRS partnerships with major land management agencies, environmental organizations, and other universities.

CHI uses cutting edge technology and research to understand how state ecosystems cope with different hydrologic conditions. Making this information available and accessible to the general public is a major aspect of the project. To date, CHI has been launched at eleven UC NRS reserves and two UC Agriculture and Natural Resources field stations with a $2.18 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

CHI research provides a scientific basis for environmental water forecasting and land management decisions in California. To monitor the pulse of water through California’s protected lands, CHI has deployed ground-based environmental sensors at reserves. Scientists then conduct drone flyovers of these instrumented areas in different seasons and conditions. Researchers can then correlate water content data from individual plants and soil patches with remote sensing images from both drones and satellites.

These connections will improve our ability to gather information about the water status of entire ecosystems. This information, in turn, will reveal areas most at risk from climate change, and point to ways that people can intervene and mitigate harms. Five- to 15-year forecasts will offer a “look ahead” for resource managers, political leaders, farmers, business leaders and the public. 

By integrating monitoring, research, solution development, and communication in a rapidly changing world, CHI provides more accurate information about water resources across the state. This data will help light the way toward an environmentally resilient future for California.