Sea level rise threatens the longest barrier system in California

All coasts are divided into sections called littoral cells, which contain a complete cycle of sediment/sand, including sources, transport paths, and sinks. The 32-mile shoreline of the Eureka littoral cell (ELC), which includes sand dunes, is the longest barrier system in California. The barriers protect not only three local estuarine systems but also neighboring communities and critical infrastructure. The resilience of the barrier system is at risk from the ongoing impacts of accelerated sea-level rise (SLR). University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant funded a study to provide critical insights on where, how, and why various locations are exposed and vulnerable to ongoing and future impacts of SLR, coastal erosion, and flooding. In turn, the work is providing crucial tools for community partners, landowners, and managers for future resiliency planning efforts for the coastline. 

Key Results:

  • The project’s completed monitoring and assessment revealed that environmental vulnerability was above average, while the socioeconomic vulnerability was extremely high in some areas 
  • The project provided a publication in Earth Surface Processes and Landforms


Project Impacts & Application:

  • Researchers are working closely with local, state, and federal partners to assist informed management decisions, including training local staff with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and providing reports and guidance for agency partners 
  • Results have informed several  local dune restoration projects to date as viable “nature-based” resilience solutions
  • Presented at the Humboldt Dunes Cooperative Public Meeting and the Friends of the Dunes Annual Public Meeting of the Humboldt Coastal Dunes Cooperative 
  • Hosted a Coastal Dunes for Resilience Workshop


Principal Investigators:

  • Ian Walker, Ph.D., Arizona State University
  • Andrea Pickart, United States Fish and Wildlife Service



California Ocean Protection Council, 2018-2021


Additional Info and Publications


Access our Publications Database to view publications from this project or other related topics