Climate Change Effects and Management Responses in the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 12/19/2010 - Updated on: 10/28/2021

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS; formerly known as the Gulf of the Farallones NMS) and the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary (CBNMS) partnered to create a Climate Change Impacts Working Group, which produced a regional assessment of potential climate change impacts and recommendations for management responses. The working group released its report in June 2010. The recommendations included the development of an action plan, improvement of education efforts, and the implementation of adaptation policies and strategies. Since then, both sanctuaries have taken additional steps to better address climate change.


The marine sanctuaries located along the north-central coast of California––GFNMS and CBNMS––created a joint Climate Change Impacts Working Group comprising scientists from various agencies and organizations. The Working Group was charged with assessing potential regional climate change impacts on the state’s coastal and ocean ecosystems. In June 2010, the Working Group released Climate Change Impacts: Gulf of Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries which identified specific climate impacts of concern to the sanctuaries’ physical infrastructure, habitats, and species. 


The impacts report identified priority issues of concern for the region, including upwelling, ocean temperature, sea level rise, and ocean acidification. The primary recommendation of the Working Group was the development of an action plan, including monitoring activities and adaptive management approaches. In addition, the group recommended improving and implementing educational efforts, using the best available climate change information, reducing existing stressors that may decrease ecosystem resiliency, and creating and implementing adaptation policies and management strategies. To address these recommendations, GFNMS and CBNMS have undertaken several approaches:

  • Between 2013–2015, a multi-stakeholder effort was conducted to evaluate the climate change vulnerability of 44 marine and coastal resources of importance to the north-central California. The study area included the entirety of the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank sanctuaries and the northern extent of the Monterey Bay NMS. Building off of the vulnerability assessment, the GFNMS Advisory Council convened a working group to develop adaptation strategies and generate a climate adaptation plan.
  • GFNMS partners with the Greater Farallones Association to run the Ocean Climate Program, which facilitates public awareness and promotes collaborative resilience action. Since 2008, the Program has organized a biennial Ocean Climate Summit to foster knowledge exchange between scientists, managers, and other practitioners.
  • The CBNMS has incorporated climate change and ocean acidification into its long-term monitoring programs.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Climate Change Impacts document provided the basis for additional climate adaptation efforts, including the GFNMS Climate Adaptation Plan. Through continued education, research, collaboration, and policy efforts, the GFNMS and CBNMS can increase the resilience of their shared geography.


Gregg, R.M. (2021). Climate Change Effects and Management Responses in the Greater Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries [Case study on a project of the Gulf of the Farallones NMS and Cordell Bank NMS]. Version 2.0. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. (Last updated September 2021)

Project Contacts

Position: Ocean Climate Program Coordinator

Affiliated Organizations

Designated in 1981, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) spans 1,279-square-miles (966 square nautical miles) just north and west of San Francisco Bay, and protects open ocean, nearshore tidal flats, rocky intertidal areas, estuarine wetlands, subtidal reefs, and coastal beaches within its boundaries.

The Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary was established in 1989 to protect and preserve the extraordinary marine ecosystem surrounding the Cordell Bank. Surrounded by soft sediments of the continental shelf seafloor, Cordell Bank emerges with a rocky habitat, providing home to colorful and abundant invertebrates, algae, and fishes. The productive waters attract migratory seabirds and marine mammals from all around the Pacific Ocean to feed in this dynamic food web.

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