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:

Coastal Resilience Los Angeles

Coastal habitat areas provide a wide range of ecosystem services to urban residents, including recreation opportunities, jobs, psychological well-being, and public health. However, these services may be inequitably distributed or accessible. This project sought to understand and map the relationship between coastal habitats and disadvantaged communities in Los Angeles County.

Hope for the Coast Campaign

The Nature Conservancy is urging California state and local coastal management agencies to adopt a bold vision for California’s Coastal Future. We will formally unveil the Hope for the Coast Vision at the Global Climate Action Summit in September. John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources, will announce the agencies, communities and organizations that have pledged to adopt the vision and their specific commitments.

Conserving California's Coastal Habitats

The Nature Conservancy in California and the California State Coastal Conservancy proudly announce the release of the first, statewide, comprehensive assessment of the vulnerability of habitats, imperiled species, and conservation lands to sea level rise. The assessment not only maps and quantifies the vulnerability of 40 wetland and terrestrial habitats, but also maps and quantifies 5 strategies to guide decisions and investments along the coast to ensure that our future coast will be as natural and conserved as our coast today.

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.
A unique collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, the University of California Santa Cruz, and Hog Island Oyster Company aims to fill an important knowledge gap: what is the relationship between oyster aquaculture activity and extent and health of eelgrass beds? Check out the video above and read more here to learn about these efforts!

Regional Projects & Solutions

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


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.


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.


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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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

The Coast Belongs to Everyone

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.

Network Member of the Month: Charles Lester

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.

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!