The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS) 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 include the development of an action plan, improvement of education efforts, and the implementation of adaptation policies and strategies.


The advisory councils of the marine sanctuaries located along the north-central coast of California, GFNMS and CBNMS, created a joint Climate Change Impacts Working Group comprised of scientists from agencies, organizations, and institutions. 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 the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries.


The Working Group examined potential climate change effects on physical properties, biological processes, marine organisms, marine habitats, compounding stressors, and direct impacts on humans. The specific effects include:

  • Physical properties: Atmosphere (wind, storms, clouds); Precipitation and land runoff; Ocean currents and waves (circulation, coastal upwelling); Sea level rise; Coastal erosion; Ocean water properties (temperature, ocean acidification, salinity, nutrients, dissolved oxygen)
  • Biological processes: Physiology, Range shifts, Phenology, Population connectivity, Evolutionary response
  • Marine organisms: Plankton, Macroalgae and plants, Invertebrates, Fish, Seabirds, Marine mammals
  • Marine habitats: Pelagic, Offshore benthic, Island, Sandy beach, Rocky intertidal, Nearshore subtidal, Estuarine
  • Compounding stressors: Pollutants and contaminants, Invasive species, Fishing, Harmful algal blooms, Disease, Wildlife disturbance, Wave and wind energy
  • Direct impacts on humans: Water quality, Health consequences of harmful algal blooms, Shoreline safety, Economic impacts (physical infrastructure, tourism and fisheries)

The report identifies priority issues of concern for the region, including upwelling, ocean temperature, sea level rise, and ocean acidification. The primary recommendation of the Working Group is the development of an action plan, including monitoring activities and adaptive management approaches. In addition, the group recommends 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.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Climate Change Impacts document provides the basis for a Climate Change Action Plan for the sanctuaries to improve management in the face of climate change. Through education, research, collaboration, and policy efforts, the GFNMS and CBNMS can increase resilience.

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

Gregg, R.M. (2010). Climate Change Effects and Management Responses in the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries [Case study on a project of the Gulf of the Farallones NMS and Cordell Bank NMS]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contact(s)

Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary

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.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary

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.


Scale of Project
Community / Local
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Air temperature
Habitat extent
Invasive / non-native species, pests
Ocean acidification
Phenological shifts
Range shifts
Water temperature
Climate Type
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Enhance migration corridors and other connectivity measures
Create new refugia / Increase size and amount of protected areas
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations
Develop / implement adaptive management strategies
Effort Stage
In planning