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.
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 counties along California’s central coast, the INCCAP team provided “Coastal Adaptation Policy Assessments” to Sonoma, Marin, Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties that spatially map ecosystem services and link relevant local-level policy considerations to inform climate adaptation planning. Each county plans to incorporate this information into their Local Coastal Program updates or amendments within the coming months. The INCCAP team officially concludes their county-level efforts with the completion of these assessments and will next turn their focus to transferring lessons from these engagements to statewide and international coastal adaptation initiatives.
Integrating Coastal Vulnerability Modeling into Land Use Planning Strategies
Building on COS’ INCCAP engagements on coastal adaptation and with the support of additional funding from the Realizing Environmental Innovation Program through the Stanford Woods Institute, the project team is scaling up its tested approach from county-level engagements to a broader statewide assessment. The project team has received initial feedback from planning staff at the Coastal Commission, Coastal Conservancy, San Mateo County and NOAA’s Office of Coastal Management and displayed the prototype online decision-support tool at the California Adaptation Forum in September 2016. In the coming year, the team will focus on acquiring large statewide datasets of the best available coastal hazard science, distilling legal and policy considerations for implementing adaptation strategies and refining the user interface with coastal planners and managers.