Developing A Dialog / Decision Support Tool for Climate Smart Restoration in Coastal Wetlands of Southern California

Focus Areas > Current Projects > Climate-Smart Restoration in Coastal Wetlands of Southern California
Eric Stein, Southern California Coastal Water Research Project
Richard Ambrose, UCLA

Project Funding: 2015-2016

Project Overview:

Wetlands in Southern California are constrained by urbanization and vary widely in size and habitat composition.  Each wetland ecosystem is different and restoration projects are often complicated by these factors. In addition, it is critical for managers to evaluate the impacts of climate change at each site when planning restoration efforts.

This project will:

  • Develop methods and a decision support tool, e.g. GIS map-based database, for managers to evaluate climate vulnerabilities at individual wetland sites. 
  • Assess and characterize Southern California wetlands to identify and prioritize anticipated effects of sea level rise at specific wetland sites.
  • Develop climate-smart adaptation strategies to guide restoration and management priorities. 

This research will help managers prioritize sites and improve the design of urban wetland restoration projects. This project is led by Eric Stein, head of the biology department at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, and Richard Ambrose, Professor of environmental health sciences at UCLA. 

Read the summary project proposal. Photo: Bolsa Chica Wetlands; credit: Gwen Noda.

For more information on this project, contact Phyllis Grifman, Associate Director

2017 Research Update:

The project evaluated and modeled 104 wetland systems throughout the Southern California Bight which range in size, structure and initial habitat composition. The model results show that for a 2050 SLR scenario, 35% of the systems are vulnerable; and for the 2100 SLR scenario, 68% of the systems are vulnerable. The most vulnerable systems for 2050 are the large perennially open lagoons, indicating that there is a great risk for drastic conversion of marsh habitats to subtidal and mudflat habitats. By 2100, the small creeks and small lagoons also will be among the most vulnerable systems. The highest concentration of vulnerable sites is in Santa Barbara county. This regional vulnerability model provides a platform to prioritize future work based on greatest vulnerabilities. There a number of management strategies that can be incorporated into the model, and 18 agencies across California are using the model results.


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  • USC Sea Grant
  • 3454 Trousdale Pkwy, CAS 200
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0373
  • (213) 740 - 1961