Climate Change Adaptation Project: Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve collaborating with CDFW Natural Community Conservation Planning Program
Tijuana River Watershed drains 1,700 square miles to the Pacific Ocean through the Tijuana River Valley. (Map: TRV Recovery Strategy)
The Tijuana River Valley (TRV) contains the largest intact coastal wetland system in Southern California, despite intense pressure from development associated with being situated on an international border between two major metropolitan areas- San Diego (California, United States) and Tijuana (Baja California, Mexico). Unlike most other coastal ecosystems in the region, which have been fragmented or lost altogether, the Valley has contiguous beach, dune, salt marsh, riparian, and upland ecosystems.
Climate change will affect the long-term ecological viability of the TRV’s natural ecosystems, while impacting the social and economic health of the surrounding communities. The Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR) is the focus of major restoration, conservation, and research efforts, making it an ideal arena for strengthening our understanding of how climate change will affect the future sustainability of important natural ecosystems and human communities. TRNERR has several collaborative projects underway that will help enhance southern California’s regional resiliency to climate change impacts: Climate Understanding & Resilience in the River Valley (CURRV) and Temporal Investigations of Marsh Ecosystems (TIME).
Climate Understanding & Resilience in the River Valley (CURRV)*
A Climate Adaptation Strategy will help resource managers effectively protect the habitats of endangered and threatened species throughout the TRV. For instance, the survival of the endangered Light-footed Clapper Rail (above) depends on the resiliency of salt marsh habitats to climate change.
The overarching goal of the CURRV project is to build upon a regional commitment to adapting to climate change within the context of other environmental and socioeconomic changes. In order to achieve this goal, TRNERR is collaborating with a diverse stakeholder group, including the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife, to conduct a vulnerability assessment that informs the development of an Adaptation Strategy addressing the impacts of climate change, specifically sea level rise and riverine flooding. The development and implementation of this Climate Adaptation Strategy will help local communities adapt to climate change and increase ecosystem resiliency by providing jointly developed recommendations to coastal decision-makers on how to consider climate change in managing our natural resources and built infrastructure, offering tools for effective participatory ecosystem-based management.
Temporal Investigations of Marsh Ecosystems (TIME)**
As part of the TIME project, TRNERR is leading a team to synthesize ecosystem science into a decision-making framework to help guide coastal wetland recovery and management in Southern California. The team will use collaborative approaches to engage a range of stakeholders and refine key management questions, explore the historical ecology of the TRV, and identify ecosystem services provided by regional wetlands. Ultimately, the goal is to create a robust set of tools to help resource managers integrate information from the past, present, and future (informed by CURRV), to steer wetlands restoration and ensure effective management of coastal wetlands in the face of a changing climate. This project will help inform CDFW’s efforts to manage wetlands for adaptation and mitigation co-benefits.
Expertise from TRNERR’s primary programs will be drawn on throughout the development and implementation of these projects, including Education & Community Outreach, Research, Stewardship, and Training.
* CURRV project is funded by a grant from the Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Program Office.
** TIME project is funded by a grant from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) Science Collaborative.