Final Report Released on Marine and Coastal Climate Change Adaptation Projects in North America

By Rachel M. Gregg

We're happy to announce the release of our report: The State of Marine and Coastal Adaptation in North America: A Synthesis of Emerging Ideas. This is the culmination of a nearly 18 month effort to survey adaptation projects, programs, and activities in the marine and coastal areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Climate change is a global problem that threatens the success of marine and coastal conservation, management, and policy. In the report, we provide a summary of climate changes and impacts, including temperature changes, sea level rise, precipitation changes, air and water circulation changes, and changes in ocean chemistry, on the marine and coastal environments of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. We then provide a summary of commonly used adaptation approaches and examples from our inventory of projects. We separate the examples, representing diverse activities, sectors, and targeted climate impacts, into four broad categories:

1. Natural Resource Management and Conservation

Strategies include incorporating future climate conditions and impacts into existing or future policies and plans, and changing management to enhance ecosystem connectivity, resilience, and monitoring and research efforts, among others.

2. Capacity Building
Strategies include acquiring or training staff, increasing organizational capacity, coordinating planning and management, investing in planning, training, and outreach efforts, collecting additional information, and conducting vulnerability assessments and studies, among others.

3. Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Strategies include improving existing or designing new infrastructure to withstand the effects of climate change, creating or modifying shoreline development measures (i.e. removing shoreline hardening, restoring coastal vegetation to minimize erosion, encouraging low impact development along shorelines), and incorporating climate change concerns in community and shoreline planning, among others.

4. Governance and Policy
Strategies include maintaining or obtaining financial, public health, and technological resources, creating new or enhancing existing policies, and developing adaptation plans, among others.

Adaptation examples are presented and organized by the following geographic regions:

Arctic Canada
o Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut

Eastern Canada and Northeast USA
o New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec
o Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island

Mid-Atlantic USA
o Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Virginia

Southeast/Gulf USA
o North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas

Gulf of Mexico and Yucatan Peninsula – Mexico
o Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatan, Quintana Roo

Alaska and British Columbia

Pacific States USA
o Washington, Oregon, California, Hawaii

Baja Peninsula and Pacific Coast – Mexico
o Baja California, Baja California Sur, Sonora, Sinaloa, Nayarit, Jalisco, Colima, Michoacan, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas

Nationwide USA

Nationwide Canada

Nationwide Mexico

The report concludes with a discussion of the common barriers and trends uncovered by the inventory of adaptation projects. Although real and perceived barriers can inhibit adaptation action, the projects provided exemplify how to overcome these barriers by improving understanding of climate science, risks, and vulnerabilities; investing in capacity building, acquisition of resources, and outreach and education; and developing collaborative partnerships. We organize these approaches by the following characteristics:
  • Assessments of vulnerability of and risk to natural resources and communities
  • Scientific research on climate change with policy implications for adaptation
  • Integration of climate change concerns in the development and implementation of committees and plans
  • Integration of climate change and its effects into programmatic and collaborative approaches to research, management, and planning
  • Incorporation of information on the effects of climate change and approaches to adaptation into outreach and education efforts
  • Restoration and protection of ecosystems to increase resilience and reduce vulnerability to climate change
Climate change adaptation is a rapidly changing field of study and new science and approaches are developed on a steady basis. We have designed this report to be iterative so that it can be updated as new information and projects are inventoried or developed and implemented.

And now we move on to cover terrestrial and freshwater areas in the 12 western U.S. states and four Canadian provinces and territories. See any blank areas that you'd like to help us fill on our map of case studies, documents, and directory entries on CAKE?