California is at risk now from impacts brought on by a changing climate. Rising sea levels have already begun to creep up California’s shores, bringing with them a host of problems for local communities. California has been a leader in building coastal resilience concepts into land use planning and other policy arenas. The Nature Conservancy’s Coastal Resilience work in California started with the very successful Coastal Resilience Ventura project in 2011. Now, we have coverage for the entire state of California, with detailed information available for Ventura County, the Monterey Bay region, and Santa Barbara County.
For information about the site-specific projects, click on the links below:
The California Coastal Resilience Network
The California Coastal Resilience Network promotes knowledge exchange and policies that support adaptation solutions that strategically and comprehensively prepare California’s coastal habitats and communities for climate induced impacts.
Regional Projects & Solutions
Approximately 87% of California’s 37 million people live in coastal
counties, and that number is growing. Built at the land-sea interface, many California communities are co-located with critical natural resources. This is not an accident: population centers historically arose in places where people could access fish, freshwater, and fertile soils. However, many of the wetlands, estuaries, beaches and floodplains that used to exist have been lost – along with much of the biodiversity and natural protection that came with them. Sea level rise is accelerating this loss, and the threat of major engineered shoreline protection infrastructure could be catastrophic to these natural habitats. Ironically, these habitats provide the most cost-effective and resilient protection for coastal communities in terms of reducing the risk of storm damage, flooding, and saltwater intrusion.
Climate change does not impact everyone equally. Along many stretches of California’s coast, disadvantaged communities are at increased risk from sea level rise and related coastal hazards, and do not have sufficient resources to deal with the expected increase in frequency and intensity of natural hazards. Coastal managers are beginning to consider socioeconomic impacts of coastal climate change in their adaptation planning efforts.
Habitats and Species
California has lost over 90% of its wetlands, which provide important nursery habitat for fish species of commercial and recreational
importance. Coastal habitats provide migratory pathways, resting, breeding, rearing and feeding areas for waterfowl, shorebirds, fish, and California’s iconic marine mammals. A suite of anthropogenic changes in land use are threatening the health and longevity of California’s coastal habitats; sea level rise and related coastal hazards, will only increase these threats.
In the face of these new and exacerbated coastal threats, traditional emergency responses have often relied on building defensive infrastructure that can have negative impacts on habitat: bigger levees or rock walls to protect coastlines. The challenge for California will be to build resilience while protecting our remaining coastal habitats into the future.
The following site-based projects throughout California are demonstrating the feasibility and effectiveness of using natural shorelines as part of an overall coastal adaptation package – conserving wetlands, beaches and estuaries both today and into the future in the face of sea level rise.
California’s iconic coastline is threatened by the coastal squeeze between upland development and climate change induced sea level rise. The Nature Conservancy and partners are demonstrating the effectiveness of coastal resilience adaptation planning statewide through their engagements in Monterey Bay, and Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties.
For the latest reports, publications and other resources on coastal resilience in California visit the Coastal Resilience Resource Library on the Conservation Gateway.
Related Stories and News
On August 22, the Climate Justice Working Group, with support from Greenlining Institute and Resources Legacy Fund, released a set of guiding principles and recommendations for advancing equitable climate change adaptation in California. Read more here.
Missed the first Coastal Commission webinar on their new draft residential adaptation policy guidance? Want to submit a comment? Read on to learn how!
Scientists from UC Santa Cruz and The Nature Conservancy published a study that proposes prioritizing property buyouts based on flood risk, ecological value, and socioeconomic conditions.
Weigh in on the California Coastal Commission’s newest guidance!
Check out this important funding opportunity from FEMA if you are working on flood risk reduction!
Help the CA 4th Climate Change Assessment understand the financial barriers and challenges that CA local governments face related to implementing climate change adaptation measures by taking this survey!
The Coastal Access and Protection Act of 2017, AB 1129 helps prepare our coast for the impacts of climate change, and preserves public access to the beach and other natural areas. Learn more about it here.
Charles Lester has been working in the California coastal management community for over 20 years, most recently as the executive director of the California Coastal Commission. He is currently a researcher at the Institute for Marine Sciences at UC Santa Cruz.