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San Diego River Coastal Sage Scrub Restoration Project: A Southern California Climate Change Adaptation Case Study

Created: 11/13/2017 - Updated: 5/09/2019

Photo attributed to Joe Blowe. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. No endorsement by licensor implied.


Climate change may affect the ability to achieve on-the-ground project goals and objectives. The following case study demonstrates how climate change vulnerability and adaptation information can be integrated into existing and future habitat restoration projects to increase overall project resilience. For this example, resource managers and regional stakeholders worked together to evaluate: 1) how climate and non-climate vulnerabilities could impact the ability to achieve project goals, 2) what current project actions help to address or minimize vulnerabilities, and 3) what new actions could be added to the project to address remaining vulnerabilities. While this specific project has already been completed, restoring native species is a common activity in southern California sage scrub habitats, and this type of process could easily be replicated in future habitat restoration projects.

San Diego River Coastal Sage Scrub Restoration Project Goals & Actions

The Forest Service restored a 25-acre area of coastal sage scrub habitat located upslope of the San Diego River within the Cleveland National Forest. Following several recent wildfires, the project area had become dominated by catclaw acacia (Senegalia greggii) and non-native grasses.

The goal of this project was to restore the site in order to provide suitable habitat for the threatened California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica) by increasing canopy cover, shrub height, and species richness.

The Forest Service revegetated the project area with a diverse mixture of native species that would provide suitable habitat structure and diversity for the California gnatcatcher. Primary project actions included:

  • Seeding the site across multiple years with a mixture of drought-tolerant shrubs

  • Controlling non-native plants using mechanical and chemical treatments for up to four years

  • Monitoring vegetative cover, shrub height, and species richness yearly 



Kershner, J.M., L.E. Hilberg, and W.A. Reynier. 2017. San Diego River Coastal Sage Scrub Restoration Project: A Southern California Climate Change Adaptation Case Study. Retrieved from CAKE:

Project Contacts

Position Title: 
Senior Scientist

EcoAdapt is at the center of climate change adaptation innovation. We provide support, training, and assistance to make conservation and management less vulnerable and more Climate Savvy. Over the past 200 years, great strides have been made in the world of conservation and now all of that is at risk because of climate change. EcoAdapt is working to ensure the success of these past efforts by delivering a framework for climate adaptation.


Scale of Project: 
Regional / Subnational
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Species of concern
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate climate-smart guidelines into restoration
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies

Related Resources

Southern California Climate Adaptation Project

Photo attributed to Geographer. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 1.0 Generic license. No endorsement by licensor implied.



Case Study
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Land Use Planning
Water Resources

The Southern California Climate Adaptation Project was initiated to improve understanding about the vulnerability of important southern California habitats to climate change and to develop adaptation strategies designed to reduce vulnerabilities and/or increase resilience of habitats.