Rae Taylor-Burns

UC Santa Cruz

“Quantifying the value of marsh restoration for climate adaptation in an urban estuary”

We used traditional engineering tools to assess how marsh restoration can reduce flood risk from climate change in San Francisco Bay. Today’s investments in nature and community resilience can result in increasing payoffs as climate change progresses and risk increases.

ABSTRACT

Incorporating nature-based solutions (NBS) into coastal climate adaptation is of broad and growing interest, but NBS are rarely assessed with the same rigor as traditional engineering solutions or with respect to future climate change. This gap poses challenges for the use of NBS for climate adaptation. We value the flood protection benefits of stakeholder-identified marsh restoration under current and future climate change within San Francisco Bay, a densely urbanized estuary, focusing on San Mateo County, the California county most vulnerable to future flooding. Marsh restoration provides a present value of $21 million which increases to over $100 million with 0.5 m of sea level rise (SLR), and to about $500 million with 1 m of SLR. We identify hotspots where marsh restoration delivers the highest benefits for adaptation, which reach $9m/hectare. Today’s investments in nature and community resilience can result in increasing payoffs as climate change progresses and risk increases.
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