Photo by Shira BezalelAs sea level rise accelerates in the San Francisco Bay, scientists, planners, and decision makers will need to re-envision and adapt our complex shoreline to provide ecological and social resilience. An important tool for this process is a science-based spatial framework for developing climate adaptation strategies appropriate to our diverse shoreline settings. The Bay Area’s varying landscape characteristics (geology, hydrology, climate etc.), land use, and demographics make different parts of the Bay shore vulnerable to sea level rise in different ways. At the same time, the region has 101 cities and towns, 9 counties, and hundreds of special districts and local government agencies and NGOs. Yet shoreline adaptation will ultimately require a coordinated, place-based, and cross-jurisdictional approach.

This project aims to define practical, science-based landscape units surrounding the shoreline (Operational Landscape Units) to facilitate a geographically-specific set of integrated adaptation strategies at the appropriate scale to address issues of both the natural and built environment. These strategies include structural and nonstructural measures that address ecosystem, flood risk management, water quality, land-use planning, and social equity goals. The result will be a spatial framework for understanding what kind of adaptations could work for real places in the Bay Area to foster a regional, collaborative, data-driven and long-term vision for regional resilience. This concept is gaining momentum as a useful input to sea-level rise planning processes, and is being integrated with vulnerability analyses in several counties. This framework can also provide guidance for the regulatory community, as well as for landscape designers, planners, and engineers. Recent local applications through the OLU project are in progress in Marin and San Mateo Counties. 

OLU boundaries can be explored in the map viewer of SFEI's Resilience Atlas.

Video (30 min.): Exploratorium Presentation on Operational Landscape Units

As part of the Governor’s Global Climate Action Summit (Sept. 2018), SFEI and SPUR presented a status report on their joint Operational Landscape Units (OLUs) project.  This project will assess nature-based adaptation solutions to address sea level rise and lowland flooding in the Bay Area’s shoreline and lowland communities. It is intended to provide science support for various local and regional planning efforts to address climate adaptation. 

 

Funder: SF Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Associated SFEI Staff: Julie Beagle, Jeremy Lowe, Katie McKnight, Sam Safran

Progress: Phase one will be completed in January 2019. Phase two will include expansion of an interactive mapping tool, integration of more adaptation measures and refinement of existing ones.

Further Information: If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Julie Beagle ([email protected]).

Operational Landscape Units for the San Francisco Bay: A Summary

As sea level rise accelerates in the San Francisco Bay, scientists, planners, and decision makers will need to re-envision and adapt our complex shoreline to provide ecological and social resilience. An important tool for this process is a science-based spatial framework for developing climate adaptation strategies appropriate to our diverse shoreline settings. The Bay Area’s varying landscape characteristics (geology, hydrology, climate), land use, and demographics make different parts of the Bay shore vulnerable to sea level rise in different ways. At the same time, the region has 101 cities and towns, 9 counties, and hundreds of special districts and local government agencies and NGOs. Yet shoreline adaptation will ultimately require a coordinated, place-based, and cross-jurisdictional approach.

 

Operational Landscape Units for the San Francisco Bay: An Approach

This project aims to define practical, science-based landscape units surrounding the shoreline (Operational Landscape Units2) to facilitate a geographically-specific set of integrated adaptation strategies at the appropriate scale to address issues of both the natural and built environment. These strategies include structural and nonstructural measures that address ecosystem, flood risk management, water quality, land-use planning, and social equity goals. The result will be a spatial framework for understanding what kind of adaptations could work for real places in the Bay Area to foster a regional, collaborative, data-driven and long-term vision for regional resilience. This concept is gaining momentum as a useful input to sea-level rise planning processes, and is being integrated with vulnerability analyses in several counties. This framework can also provide guidance for the regulatory community, as well as for landscape designers, planners, and engineers.


This memo is meant to document the approach for defining and characterizing Operational Landscape Units (OLU), and pairing them with appropriate adaptation strategies, as agreed upon by the project team, and technical advisory groups.

New SPUR Project: Designing With Nature for Sea Level Rise

Laura Tam, SPUR's Sustainable Development Policy Director, describes how the Bay Area's adaptation strategies for rising sea level, to be successful, must adopt new thinking regarding nature's jurisdictions.

 

 

Understanding the Opportunities

SFEI's Julie Beagle, Jeremy Lowe, Sam Safran, and Katie McKnight, along with SPUR's Laura Tam and Sarah Jo Szambelan, review the opportunities for implementing OLUs. See the following presentation:

 

 

 

The Resilience Atlas visualizes the past, present and future conditions of San Francisco Bay and its local watersheds by combining layers of information, such as flood infrastructure, shoreline change over time, and sea level rise. The Resilience Atlas is an interactive platform created by the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), with funding from the Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) program, managed by the San Francisco Estuary Partnership (SFEP). Ancillary funding was also contributed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District (SCVWD).

This project aims to aid regional planning efforts by providing access to an online repository of key datasets related to ecosystem resilience around the Bay shore to restoration managers, governmental organizations, nonprofits and citizens.

Our interactive interface allows users to explore the relationships between shoreline characteristics, habitats, infrastructure, adaptation strategies and vulnerable communities, overlaid with sea level rise scenarios. The Resilience Atlas will host map-based stories that highlight examples of completed adaptation projects and what can be done in areas vulnerable to sea level rise, subsidence, flooding and other challenges.