Coastal habitats such as dunes and wetlands serve as natural buffers to coastal hazards, including storm surge and high tides, in addition to providing a plethora of benefits ranging from cultural value, water quality filtration, and critical habitats for sensitive plant and animal species. In the face of urbanization, coastal squeeze, and increasingly severe coastal hazards due to climate change, protection and restoration of coastal habitats presents an opportunity to build coastal resilience in addition to providing multiple benefits for coastal communities.

Explore the projects below to learn more about USC Sea Grant’s funded research and outreach related to ecology and coastal processes.


Beaches are broadly recognized and highly valued as cultural and economic resources for coastal regions; however, their value as ecosystems that provide natural protection is less appreciated. Although the Southern California coast is widely known for its wide, flat beaches, they used to be covered with beach dunes, until development removed most dunes and left only remnants. As climate change threatens coastlines, coastal managers must consider how to adapt. In contrast to traditional gray adaptation measures of armoring the coast such as sea walls, nature-based solutions such as sand dunes offer multiple ecosystem services, including providing habitat for many species, accreting sediment, protecting inland areas from storm surges and reducing inland flooding, and protecting aquifers from saltwater intrusion. USC Sea Grant is working to study coastal sand dunes and their applicability in Southern California for building coastal resilience. 


Wetlands provide a host of ecosystem services including providing essential habitat for fish and bird species, supporting cleaner water, providing recreational opportunities, and buffering inland communities from storm surges and coastal flooding. However, nearly 98% of historical wetlands in Los Angeles have been lost due to deposition and development. Understanding remaining wetlands is therefore critical to their effective management in the future.