May 2, 2019

On May 2, 2019, the San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News described how the Adaptation Atlas promotes nature-based strategies to adapt to sea-level rise. The Adaptation Atlas, in offering a new map of the Bay Area, shares "nature's jurisdictions" as a way to inform how best to coordinate efforts around the Bay Area. The report promotes the most effective strategies tuned to the differences in our region's varied ecosystems. This three-year effort is the product of a broad collaboration of scientists, natural resource managers, municipal planners, policy strategists, and many others who offer guidance to those who seek effective and smart investments in our infrastructure at a time when the Bay Area must adapt to changing conditions.

The substantial, 255-page document is based on physical and social scientific fundamentals. Led by Julie Beagle of SFEI and Laura Tam of SPUR, the team sought to examine strategies for ecological and social resilience. The report contends that a scientific framework is necessary to optimize efforts for sea-level rise adaptation, just as the need for this work becomes increasingly urgent. Yet, shoreline adaptation is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Rather, different projects, initiatives, and programs will work best when tailored to the diverse environmental units that characterize the Bay Area. The Adaptation Atlas describes these different strategies.

Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle writes,

A blueprint outlining how San Francisco Bay communities should combat sea-level rise was released early Thursday by ecosystem scientists and urban planners who envision a ring of man-made reefs, rocky beaches and graded marshlands around the largest estuary on the Pacific coast.

The carefully designed features, outlined in the 255-page San Francisco Bay Shoreline Adaptation Atlas, would in many cases replace or bury seawalls, rip rap, culverts and other crude fortifications that experts say won’t hold up as the climate warms and water rises.

The idea, developed over the past two years by the San Francisco Estuary Institute and SPUR, a San Francisco urban planning research center, is to build eco-friendly features that support wildlife and absorb, rather than repel, the rising tides.

The report comes at a critical time: The U.S. Geological Survey recently calculated that property damage from sea level rise in the Bay Area could exceed $100 billion by the end of the century if nothing is done to stop carbon dioxide emissions. The Union of Concerned Scientists said 4,100 homes in San Mateo County and nearly 4,400 in Marin County could be underwater by 2045.

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Peter Fimrite
Other Contributors: 
Laura Tam
Sarah Jo Szambelan
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Resilient Landscapes Program
Terrestrial Ecology
Center for Resilient Landscapes