The Trabuco Creek Watershed Improvement Project: A Southern California Climate Change Adaptation Case Study

Created: 12/06/2017 - Updated: 1/07/2021



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 regional watershed improvement 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, developing and revising watershed improvement plans is a common activity in southern California, and this type of process could easily be replicated in future projects.

Trabuco Creek Project Goals & Actions

The Cleveland National Forest conducted a watershed improvement project in Trabuco Creek, a stream in the semi- arid Santa Ana Mountains with high recreation use, including multiple private recreation residences, and several instream dams and hardened road crossings (i.e., fords). The goals of this project were to:

  1. Improve aquatic organism passage by increasing and maintaining stream habitat connectivity; and

  2. Improve stream and riparian habitat quality, sustainability, function, and availability for fish, reptiles, amphibians, and birds.

Primary project actions included:

  • Remove barriers to aquatic organism passage (e.g., small-scale, non-functioning instream fords and dams)

  • Add channel complexity

  • Remove invasive vegetation 



Kershner, J.M., L.E. Hilberg, and W.A. Reynier. 2017. The Trabuco Creek Watershed Improvement Project: A Southern California Climate Change Adaptation Case Study. Retrieved from CAKE:…

Project Contact(s)

Position: 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
Land Use Planning
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Invasive / non-native species, pests
Species of concern
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate climate-smart guidelines into restoration
Enhance migration corridors and other connectivity measures
Design protected areas or lands to allow inland, altitudinal, or latitudinal movement
Habitat/Biome Type
Taxonomic Focus

Related Resources