California

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.

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Regional Projects & Solutions

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The rugged California Pacific coastline in the area near and north of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur. Photo credit: Lynn McBride

The rugged California Pacific coastline in the area near and north of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur. Photo credit: Lynn McBride

Overview

Approximately 87% of California’s 37 million people live in coastal

Mandalay Generating Station, Ormond Beach, CA, Photo credit: Melinda Kelley

Mandalay Generating Station, Ormond Beach, CA, Photo credit: Melinda Kelley

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.

Socioeconomic

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

Scotts Creek, Photo credit: Matt Merrifield

Scotts Creek, Photo credit: Matt Merrifield

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.

Plover Chick, Photo credit: Larry Wan

Plover Chick, Photo credit: Larry Wan

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.

Overview

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.

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Resources

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

Network Member of the Month: Laura Engeman

Laura Engeman is the director of the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative where she works to bring together public agencies, nonprofits, community foundations, utilities, scientists, and local managers to find regional solutions for climate adaptation.

Navy Partners with TNC on Climate Adaptation

The Nature Conservancy recently announced a partnership with the United States Navy to prepare for the impacts of climate change on Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) in California. This initiative marks the first time the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is partnering with a nongovernmental organization to protect a military installation from sea level rise and other consequences of rising global temperatures. Read more about it here!

Network Member of the Month: Eric Hartge

Eric is the Research Development Manager for the Center for Ocean Solutions in Stanford, CA, where he works to advance the connection between the best available science around coastal and ocean issues with critical leverage points for coastal management policies.