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Physical Processes and Habitat Structure

At the foundation of California’s coastal and ocean environment is a unique landscape of physical structures including sandy and rocky beaches, coastal rivers, and wetlands.  These features define our shoreline, sediment supply, and compromise a complex habitat structure that is critical to many species.  As development along the coast has increased, pollution and landscape alterations have threatened many of these physical features and their associated habitats.  In addition, the resiliency of these habitats is expected to be the most vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise effects.  The viability of sustaining these physical processes and habitat structures depends on restoring key habitats, addressing sediment and shoreline management, and supporting efforts to adapt to climate change.

Objectives of Physical Processes and Habitat Structure Section of the 2006 – 2011 OPC strategic plan:


Objective 1: Habitat RestorationSalmonBelowRiffle_111908_tbd

Wetlands, coastal freshwater streams, and nearshore eelgrass and kelp habitats are critical to the spawning, rearing and survival of many California native species.  These habitats are also some of the most heavily degraded due to coastal pollution and development.  The OPC has focused on habitat restoration of subtidal habitats in San Francisco Bay through funding, scientific support and interagency coordination.  The OPC also has a significant focus on salmon and steelhead habitat restoration.  These fish have long been a sign of a healthy Pacific ecosystems, but are now threatened with extinction.  OPC-funded recovery efforts for these fish include removing fish passage barriers, monitoring flows on coastal streams, and restoring riparian habitat.

Objective 2: Regional Sediment Management

Human modifications of the shoreline and rivers have impacted sediment supplies and beach resources.  Maintaining a sustainable sediment supply to the coast will be essential as the impacts of sea level rise become more pronounced in the future.  Regional sediment management and large-scale efforts to restore natural sediment supplies to the coasts can assist in resolving shoreline erosion and protection issues in California.  The OPC is also a member of the Coastal Sediment Management Workgroup (CSMW).

Objective 3: Understand Impacts of Climate Change

Climate change is the defining issue of our generation.  Science shows that even if emissions are severely curtailed, we will still experience future climate impacts due to existing greenhouse gases. California’s coastline is particularly susceptible to projected climate change impacts, such as sea level rise, changes in water temperature, an chemistry, changes in biodiversity and habitat location.  Along with other state entities, the OPC is taking a leadership role in examining these impacts and setting the stage for comprehensive adaptation planning.

Initiatives and Funded Projects:

Return to the OPC Climate Page

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