Thursday, January 14, 2010



Biodiversity loss in an era of climate change ultimately is a consequence of the globalizing force of economic trade (in this case, the exchange of coastal and marine resources) and anthropogenic climate change. To begin to address the cumulative impacts of the multiple-use of coastal marine resources and to mitigate the expected impacts from climate change, this paper’s focus is on the development of coastal marine ecosystem-based planning activities in the Euro-Mediterranean, the United States, and California. Coastal marine ecosystem-based policy is one valuable tool to protect biodiversity in an era of climate change.

The Mediterranean-type ecosystems (MTEs) of the world are unique biomes that share a common natural history – people in this areas have had to adapt to major climate events such as flooding, earthquakes, fire, and changes in the available of water and food. The question is whether the contemporary cultures can adapt to anthropogenic climate change, and the synergistic impacts of coastal marine resource use. While the issue of biodiversity loss may seem an “ephemeral” issue in today’s climate change debate, the consequences of biodiversity loss will have dramatic consequences of various peoples and places.

Ultimately, new social alliances and partnerships that combine scientists, policymakers and non-governmental organizations that support the protection of important coastal and marine are needed to address coastal marine biodiversity loss in an age of climate change.


Mediterranean cultures have changed their landscapes and their landscapes have changed society; in many ways natural history of Mediterranean culture reflect adaptations to a turbulent climate (Grove and Racknam 2001; Fagan 2004). Mediterranean-type ecosystems (MTEs) are far from homeostatic or stable systems (Blondel and Aronson 1999). Natural history reveals that the cultures of the Mediterranean have adapted to dramatic long-term change in climate. Brian Fagan, a former Guggenheim Fellow, in his most recent book, The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization, (2004) shows that fluctuations in climate dramatically affect human behavior, technology and culture. The diverse Chumash peoples of south-central coastal California faced dramatic climate events, and developed ways of adapting to changes in water availability, food supply, and dramatic weather events, including long-term, intergenerational change in the climate (Raab and Jones 2004). Mediterranean societies adapted to historic periods of drought, famine, flooding and catastrophic fire.

The five MTEs in the world are characterized by mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers are extraordinarily rich in biodiversity, covering only 2.25 percent of the earth’s land surface. The MTEs contain 20 percent of its named vascular plant species (Rundel et al. 1998; Blondel and Aronson 1999). The five regions are:

• The southern parts of the states of South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia;
• All of California excluding desert and steppe, reaching into small parts of the state of Oregon and the Mexican state of Baja California;
• Central Chile;
• Parts of South Africa; and
• The Mediterranean region which covers all or part of thirty countries.

MTEs share many problems related to their climate, including sensitivity to climate disturbance, desertification, air and water pollution, overdrawing of groundwater, degradation of fresh water ecosystems, coastal marine habitat loss, overfishing, and urbanization. Rundel et al. (1998) note that MTEs are not steady-state ecosystems. For example, the Los Angeles River in southern California can increase its flow 3,000 fold in a 24-hour period (Davis 1998). California has experienced significant long-term droughts or extreme hydrological shifts: 892-1112 (220 years) and 1209-1350 (141 years). The longest drought of the 20th Century lasted 6 years during 1987-1992. During the last 60 years, urban development has taken place during what California Institute of Technology scientists call an “earthquake deficit” while major flooding events have been rather calm compared to the historical evidence of climate disturbance. Davis (1998) writes, “The urbanization of southern California seems to have taken place during one of the most unusual episodes of climatic and seismic benignity since the inception of the Holocene” [emphasis added]. The urban-industrial infrastructure of coastal California has changed the character and future of the region. In hope of preventing major flood events, the Los Angeles (LA) River was paved and channelized. Forty-eight percent of the LA Basin is developed, a 5% of the historical coastal wetland remain. California includes over 1200 irrigation systems that feed coastal development, agriculture, and industry. The irrigation network is a significant contributor to the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The Need to protect biodiversity

Recent policy development in California represents a preliminary step to address the climate-related pressures on coastal marine biodiversity. The designation of Marine Protected Areas of MPAs represents one regulatory tool in support of an ecosystem-based approach to protect coastal marine biodiversity by limited use of marine areas. MPA network design and policy development should be linked to climate-related pressures, and should not be limited in terms of sector-based priorities, such as fisheries management.

Similar protective measures should be adopted at the regional level in coastal California.

California has also begun to assess the pressures and potential policy responses to coastal marine biodiversity loss. Over the last six years the California Climate Change Center, a state program conducting climate change research relevant to the state, has begun to characterize the expected impacts on key state resources. The existing California policy framework includes Assembly Bill (AB) 32, Senate Bill (SB) 375, SB 97, as well as a host of additional topic-specific bills. The California policy framework presents various obligations and opportunities for each county and city to participate in this emerging State directive. Executive Order S-3-05, signed in 2005 by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, requires both mitigation plans and adaptation strategies to manage climate-related impacts. California policy requires that the public and private sectors participate in reducing California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

While AB 32 sets a framework and process for these achieving goals of greenhouse emission reductions, it does not operationalize them. To begin executing the intended actions, the State legislature has thus far adopted thirteen bills and the Governor has signed four executive orders to provide GHG producers and regulators with additional direction regarding implementation activities. This includes the passage of SB 97, on August 24, 2007, which provides guidance on how GHG emissions are to be addressed through CEQA analysis, as well as the recent passage of the closely watched SB 375. Signed on September 30, 2008, SB 375 aligns the State’s housing mandate with regional transportation plans to effectuate a reduction in vehicle trips. Under SB 375, each of the California’s 18 Municipal Planning Organizations (MPO), is required to develop an aligned transportation and housing plan for adoption by 2013.

In addition to these topic-specific bills, AB 32 charged the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop a Scoping Plan outlining the State’s strategy to achieve the 2020 GHG goals. The Scoping Plan proposes 18 emission reduction measures, which are expected to be adopted in December 2009, with final reduction measures expected to be adopted by January 2011. These measures seek to implement AB 32’s goal of framing a new statewide policy paradigm by outlining specific strategies and actions, including those related to energy conservation and efficiency, improvements to the state’s infrastructure, regionally coordinated transportation planning practices, and market-mechanisms such as an emissions cap-and-trade program. These measures will be legally enforceable at the beginning of 2012, in order to reach the statewide emissions reduction target by 2020. The pending regulatory environment, however, does not necessarily undermine local control.

With the passage and implementation of the AB 32, California is currently investigating the various policy tools that may be needed to mitigate the expected impacts from climate change through reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In concert with these efforts, the California Resources Agency has undertaken the complicated task of developing California's first comprehensive Climate Adaptation Strategy (CAS). California’s efforts include the development of a matrix of policy responses to impacts to coastal areas of the state. The CAS will have six different Climate Adaptation Working Groups that will identify and prioritize climate adaptation strategies on a per-sector basis, including:

• Biodiversity and Habitat
• Infrastructure (roads, levees, buildings, etc.)
• Oceans and Coastal Resources
• Public Health
• Water
• Working Landscapes (forestry and agriculture)

California’s Ocean and Coastal Resources Climate Change Adaptation Strategy will be produced by the Oceans and Coastal Resources Working Group. As of March 2009, this working group is completing an analysis for state-wide strategy that includes: 1) a vulnerability assessment will establish the type and extent of potential climate changes such as sea level rise, storm surges, and changing ocean conditions and how these changes will impact infrastructure and development, human populations, economy, and natural habitats and species; and 2) coastal adaptation strategies (both overarching and specific) will address these impacts.

Santa Barbara County has begun to develop their required Climate Action Plan and has also begun the planning process to update their Gaviota Coastal Plan. This webpage focuses on the biodiversity conservation measures that are needed for both of these County plans.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Final Report Published

New Final Report is available at the above address in a digital format, and will be distributed to members of the Santa Barbara County community in late October.