Coastal Adaptation Projects


As climate impacts increase, so does the desire to protect natural systems and capitalize on their multiple benefits such as reducing wave impacts, improving water quality, and providing recreation opportunities. Our goal is to serve as a liaison between ecosystem services experts and California coastal managers and planners to translate the benefits of natural infrastructure in climate adaptation planning contexts. Incorporating Natural Capital into Climate Adaptation Planning (INCCAP) enables the California Coastal Commission and local governments to use a broader range of planning options to facilitate adaptation to climate change impacts.

By building ecosystem services science and collaborations with local experts, we produce and provide the evidence and guidance needed to facilitate the inclusion of natural capital in climate adaptation decisions. We collaborate with the Natural Capital Project to model coastal vulnerability and risk to rising seas and more damaging storms and how protecting or restoring habitat reduces that risk.  Following the scientific analysis, we support local jurisdictions in amending their land use policies to better account for these protective natural habitat services. Our other project, Integrating coastal vulnerability modeling into land use planning, which is sponsored Wood's REIP grant, works to make coastal land management decisions easier by creating a prioritization tool that can be accessed online. 

This interdisciplinary, iterative process empowers planners and builds community consensus around the value of ecosystem services in climate adaptation decisions and ultimately leads to improved habitat protection and service delivery for coastal communities.

Coastal Armoring in Santa Cruz, CA. Photo: Brad Damitz.

Where we are now


In 2015, The Center focused its attention on west coast regional and California state level projects as a testing ground for innovative science, technology and policy solutions. Our analysis is leading to informed decisions and action along the coast. Managers in Monterey County referenced our report on the role of natural habitats in reducing coastal vulnerability to climate impacts when requesting funds for a dune restoration project in a location that we had identified as critically important. The INCCAP team has established and maintains—in collaboration with California state agency staff—a network of coastal adaptation practitioners from throughout the state to enhance transferability of distilled lessons from the team’s work. The State Coastal Conservancy has funded the restoration effort, which is due to begin in spring 2016. 

Based on long-term engagements in central coast counties in California, the INCCAP team provided Marin County as "Coastal Policy Assessment" to distil local-level science and policy relevant information on the ecosystem services provided by natural habitats in reducing exposure to coastal impacts. Marin County plans to incorporate this information in their Local Coastal Program Amendment in 2016 as the INCCAP team sifts to similar engagements in Sonoma, Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. 

Integrating Coastal Vulnerability Modeling into Land Use Planning Strategies 

Our climate adaptation team intends to replicate and scale up the approach developed in the INCCAP project to a statewide effort through a recently funded Realizing Environmental Innovation Program (REIP) two-year grant from the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.The Center’s climate adaptation team and partners from the Natural Capital Project will develop an online prioritization tool that will identify sites where coastal habitats can best provide protection from coastal hazards. This is being done in collaboration with California state-level coastal agency staff. The online prioritization tool will also highlight policy pathways for implementing nature-based strategies. 

Coastal Adaptation Contacts:
Project Lead: Eric Hartge (research development manager)
Early Career Fellows: Jesse Reiblich (early career law and policy fellow)