How will climate change affect Santa Monica Bay?
There has been broad consensus that climate change will have significant impacts on local communities, and that preparation must be made to adapt to these impacts. Recent studies, especially downscaled modeling work, show that local impacts of climate change in the Santa Monica Bay region will include extreme weather patterns including increased storm intensity and severe drought conditions. Sea level rise combined with high tides and storm events increase the risk of coastal flooding.
Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment
In 2016, The Bay Foundation (TBF), with support from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC), conducted a broad, risk-based, Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (CCVA) of the objectives in the Santa Monica Bay National Estuary Program (SMBNEP’s) Bay Restoration Plan (BRP). The CCVA identifies risks associated with individual objectives and goals in the BRP. Additionally, the CCVA identifies strengths and weaknesses of existing objectives to manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The SMBNEP Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment will serve as an important tool to inform future updates to the Bay Restoration Plan.
TBF continues to promote comprehensive sediment management and other “soft” and “living” measures to address the impact of sea level rise in the beach and adjacent ecosystems of the Bay. As an example, the Santa Monica Beach Restoration Pilot Project, which will restore several acres of sandy coastal habitats on the beaches of Santa Monica to establish a native fore-dune plant community, will showcase and provide valuation information to evaluate the effectiveness of restored natural ecological functions of sandy beaches in protection of coastal infrastructure from SLR and erosion, while providing a vital refuge for wildlife.
More storms and larger waves pounding the Southern California coastline are major causes for concern if we hope to preserve our beaches and rocky shorelines for future generations to enjoy. TBF is spearheading a study that will investigate how we can protect shorelines using our proven kelp forest restoration techniques. Mature kelp forests have the potential to dampen the effects of waves before they reach our beaches and shorelines to help mitigate the effects of climate change in the future. Researchers will use oceanographic instruments to look at how healthy kelp forests influence current patterns, wave velocity, and sediment transport off the coast of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. To learn more about this project click here.
Monitoring Ocean Acidification
Ocean acidification (OA) is a global problem triggered by the world’s oceans absorbing CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. The impacts of OA are already being felt across West Coast systems and are projected to grow rapidly in intensity and extent. An increasing number of studies are documenting the progression of OA and its effects on local taxa, such as sea urchins, corals, mussels, coralline algae, and calcareous planktons. To contribute to monitoring of OA in Santa Monica Bay, a high precision instrument package for pH, dissolved oxygen, and pCO2 was deployed in 2016. This instrumentation will provide valuable time-series information on acidification and hypoxia and advance research on the effects of OA on biological communities in the Bay.