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The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: Planning for Climate Change

Created: 12/19/2010 - Updated: 5/08/2019

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Summary

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), located off the southern coast of California, consists of approximately 1,110 square nautical miles of ocean and coastal waters. The primary objective of the CINMS is to conserve, protect, and enhance the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of marine resources surrounding the Channel Islands for current and future generations. In 2009, a final management plan for the sanctuary was released that sets out priority management issues and actions for the next five to ten years. Although climate change impacts are not explicitly addressed by this plan, the CINMS is poised to develop regional plans to adapt to a modified landscape from climate change.

Background

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), located off the coast of southern California, includes approximately 1,110 square nautical miles of coastal and ocean waters, as well as the five northern Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara). It was designated a national marine sanctuary in 1980, with the primary objective of conserving, protecting, and enhancing the biodiversity, ecological integrity, and cultural legacy of marine resources surrounding the Channel Islands. The unique ecosystems of the Channel Islands support a diverse suite of species including giant kelp, invertebrates, fishes, marine mammals, and seabirds.

State and federal agencies including the California Department of Fish and Game, the Channel Islands National Park, and the National Marine Fisheries Service have overlapping jurisdiction in the CINMS and work together (i.e., as the Sanctuary Advisory Council) to manage the impacts of human activities in the sanctuary. The CINMS manager and staff work with the Sanctuary Advisory Council to identify and resolve management issues. In 2009, the final Sanctuary Management Plan was released; it describes a strategy to identify, assess, and respond to emerging issues, including climate change. Potential effects of climate change on CINMS ecosystems include increasing sea surface temperatures, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and increased severity of storm events.

Implementation

In January 2009, the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries released the final version of the CINMS Management Plan. The Sanctuary Management Plan for the CINMS is a road map for sanctuary management that serves to guide site management toward achievement of the Sanctuary’s goals, and inform constituents about management actions it has planned for the next five to ten years. The final plan also outlines a strategy to identify, assess, and respond to emerging issues, including climate change.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The CINMS Management Plan does not fully address climate change. However, the CINMS is aptly prepared to bring the issue to the Sanctuary Advisory Council as well as local, state, and federal agencies to plan for and adapt to the potential impacts of climate change. Recommendations for applying the CINMS emerging issues strategy (i.e., identify, assess, respond) to climate change include:

  1. Identify potential impacts of climate change
    1. Ocean warming
    2. Ocean acidification
    3. Shifts in ocean circulation
    4. Sea level rise
  2. Assess potential impacts of climate change
    1. Monitoring and research are vital for detecting and understanding the effects of climate and ocean change.
      1. Monitor algae, invertebrates, and fishes
      2. Monitor environmental variables (e.g., water temperature, sea level, dissolved oxygen, pH, currents)
      3. Catalog and analyze spatial data (maps) that characterize the coastline and the extent of kelp
      4. Annually review monitoring and research data
  3. Respond to climate change 
    1. Increasing public awareness and understanding is vital in order to adapt to climate change. Opportunities to focus the sanctuary education and outreach program include:
      1. Incorporate climate change information into volunteer and adult education programs;
      2. Update the sanctuary website and weather kiosks to include information about the causes and impacts of climate change;
      3. Generate a special issue of the sanctuary publication that discusses the current scientific understanding of climate change and potential impacts on sanctuary resources;
      4. Create a climate change brochure for members of the community that helps to identify opportunities to reduce their greenhouse gas contributions and other stressors;
      5. Expand the sanctuary’s Ocean Etiquette program to increase awareness about individual activities that contribute to climate change, and ways to mitigate it;
      6. Host a climate change workshop for teachers;
      7. Prepare web-based climate change curriculum with classroom exercises and opportunities for experimental learning; and
      8. Host public lectures and engage students by partnering with local scientists who study climate change.

Status

Information gathered through publications and online resources. Last updated December 2010.

Citation

Kershner, J. (2010). The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: Planning for Climate Change [Case study on a project of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/channel-islands-national-marine-sanctuary-pla... (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contacts

In 1980, a portion of the Santa Barbara Channel was given a special protected status with the designation of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary is an area of national significance because of its exceptional natural beauty and resources. It encompasses approximately 1,470 square miles (or 1,110 square nautical miles) of water surrounding Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara Islands, extending from mean high tide to six nautical miles offshore around each of the five islands.

Keywords

Scale of Project: 
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Fisheries
Wildlife
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Biodiversity
Fishery harvest
Habitat extent
Ocean acidification
Range shifts
Sea level rise
Species of concern
Climate Type: 
Temperate
Timeframe: 
Ongoing
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Capacity Building
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Taxonomic Focus: 
Mammals
Fishes
Other Invertebrates
Effort Stage: 
In progress

Related Resources

Sector Addressed: 
Water Resources
Wildlife

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