Southern California Climate Adaptation Project

Laura Hilberg Jessi Kershner
Posted on: 9/25/2017 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

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Project Summary

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. This project used a collaborative, stakeholder-driven process that involved soliciting input from land and resource managers, conservation practitioners, scientists, and others from federal and state agencies, universities, and nongovernmental organizations. Input was provided through participation on the project's Stakeholder Advisory Committee, a series of workshops focused on vulnerability and adaptation, and peer reviews of draft products. Project products include climate change vulnerability assessments and adaptation strategies and actions for 12 regionally important habitats. In addition, four case studies were developed to demonstrate how climate vulnerability and adaptation information can be integrated into on-the-ground projects. The diverse range of products are intended to inform federal agency management plan revisions and projects as well as other regional management and conservation planning efforts.


In 2011, the USFS Pacific Southwest Region and EcoAdapt formed a partnership to develop a climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation strategies for habitats and species of management concern in the Sierra Nevada. Based on the project’s success, the USFS and EcoAdapt again partnered together for the Southern California Climate Adaptation Project. Funding for the project was provided by the USFS and California Landscape Conservation Cooperative (CA LCC).

The Southern California Climate Adaptation Project, launched in 2014, was designed to help natural resource managers and conservation practitioners understand and address climate change impacts on important regional habitats. The project area included lands along the central and southern California coast and inland, with a focus on the four National Forests in that region (Angeles, San Bernardino, Cleveland, Los Padres). Specific project objectives were to:

  1. Establish a stakeholder working group involving multiple agencies and organizations;
  2. Collaboratively identify focal resources (e.g., habitats, species) of management concern;
  3. Assess vulnerability of focal resources to climate and non-climate stressors;
  4. Generate adaptation strategies to reduce vulnerabilities and/or increase resilience of resources;
  5. Demonstrate how to integrate climate considerations into on-the-ground actions; and
  6. Educate and engage with resource managers and planners, conservation practitioners, and others to provide with a suite of climate change tools, resources, and information that can be applied in their own work.


There were multiple components to the Southern California Climate Adaptation Project:

  1. Stakeholder Advisory Committee. Land and resource managers, scientists, and conservation practitioners were invited to participate in the committee; their role was to provide input on focal resource selection, participate in workshops, and review draft products.
  2. Focal Resources. The Stakeholder Advisory Committee developed an initial list of focal resources. In November 2014, this list was reviewed and revised in a one-day Focal Resources Workshop with regional stakeholders. A total of 12 focal habitats were selected, which included alluvial scrub, chaparral, conifer forest, desert, endemic habitats, grasslands, oak woodlands, pinyon-juniper woodlands, riparian habitats, rivers and streams, sage scrub, and subalpine habitats.
  3. Vulnerability Assessment. EcoAdapt utilized an online survey that evaluated sensitivity, exposure, and adaptive capacity to generate vulnerability assessment information for each focal habitat. EcoAdapt supplemented survey responses with information from the scientific literature, and habitat experts provided extensive peer-review feedback as each draft was developed and revised.
  4. Adaptation Strategies. In May 2015, EcoAdapt guided agency staff and regional stakeholders through a two-day Adaptation Planning Workshop, with over 45 participants representing 24 different organizations and agencies. At the workshop, participants reviewed vulnerability assessment findings for each focal habitat and then generated adaptation strategies and actions intended to reduce vulnerabilities and/or increase resilience of habitats. Adaptation actions were evaluated based on implementation feasibility and effectiveness, as well as where, when, and how to implement.
  5. Adaptation Implementation. In January 2016, EcoAdapt led another workshop focused on integrating vulnerability and adaptation information into management activities and current, on-the-ground projects. Workshop participants discussed integration of vulnerability and adaptation information into restoration and planting activities, aquatic organism passage removal projects, grazing allotments, and fuel break projects.
  6. Spatial Data. The Conservation Biology Institute created a Southern California project landing page on Data Basin ( and helped gather and analyze spatial mapping products for the region.

EcoAdapt also presented multiple webinars for the CA LCC and USFS, and reported on the findings of this project at regional conferences (e.g., the California Adaptation Forum).

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Southern California Climate Adaptation Project resulted in multiple publically available products tailored to a variety of users. These include:

  1. A synthesis of observed and projected climate changes for southern California;
  2. Climate change vulnerability assessment syntheses and summaries for each of the 12 focal habitats;
  3. Adaptation strategy syntheses and summaries for each habitat;
  4. Two-page vulnerability and adaptation briefs for each habitat; and
  5. Adaptation implementation plans and case studies for four types of management activities (i.e. grazing allotments, fuel breaks, aquatic organism passage removal, planting and restoration).

Synthesis products provide an in-depth look at vulnerabilities and adaptation options while summary products highlight key vulnerability and adaptation information. Adaptation implementation case studies demonstrate how to integrate climate change vulnerability and adaptation information into on-the-ground projects.

The Southern California Climate Adaptation Project benefited greatly from strong stakeholder, partner, and financial support. From the onset, this project had a large and diverse stakeholder base committed to the project. The USFS Pacific Southwest (PSW) Regional Office proved to be a key partner; their commitment to producing the highest quality products and willingness to invest significant time and energy into planning, document review, and coordination helped the process move smoothly and resulted in useful, comprehensive products. The Conservation Biology Institute was also a critical partner, providing key downscaled climate information and support that informed this process.


Hilberg, L. & J. Kershner. (2017). Southern California Climate Adaptation Project. Ed. Rachel M. Gregg. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated September 2017)

Project Contacts

Position: Senior Scientist

Affiliated Organizations

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.

The Pacific Southwest Region of the US Forest Service manages 20 million acres of National Forest land in California and assists the State and Private forest landowners in California, Hawaii and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands. Eighteen national forests are located in this region. The Pacific Southwest Region is commonly referred to as Region 5 (R5).

Engaging Partners in an All Lands Approach

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