Copy  •  Resilient Landscapes  •   2019
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Building Cities to Better Support Biodiversity

Building Cities

By 2040, about 10 million people will live in the Bay Area. Most will live in highly urban environments. Climate change will bring more extreme weather: hotter days, more drought, increased flooding, and sea level rise. Can we revitalize nature in these communities where our children and grandchildren will live? Can we create healthy neighborhoods where people and nature thrive?

Dr. Erica Spotswood and a team of SFEI scientists have developed a framework outlining the key elements for supporting biodiversity in urban environments. 

As part of the Healthy Watersheds Resilient Baylands Project, the new framework entitled Making Nature’s City synthesizes findings from decades of urban ecology research to inform innovative urban design. It identifies seven key elements to consider when designing cities for both people and nature: habitat patch size, connections, matrix quality, habitat diversity, native vegetation, special resources, and management. The report uses Silicon Valley as a case study to illustrate how urban planners and conservationists can use geospatial data to assess opportunities and assets within each of these categories. 

Various challenges are facing cities as their populations continue to grow, sea levels rise, and weather patterns shift with climate change. Making Nature’s City provides critical insights to help cities become more resilient to these changes and more livable for people, plants, and animals.

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Marin County Sea Level Rise Adaptation Framework released

For the Bay Area, climate change means more extreme weather, more flooding and more sea level rise. We’ll need to redesign and transform our shoreline communities to adapt to these changes. Recently the San Francisco Estuary Institute and SPUR partnered on a landmark report to guide this transformation. The San Francisco Bay Adaptation Atlas provides a science based framework to help communities work with nature to adapt to these changes. In partnership with Point Blue Conservation Science and the County of Marin, we’ve now produced a “User’s Guide” to help local leaders apply the Atlas to their local needs.

Please join the San Francisco Estuary Institute, Point Blue Conservation Science, and the County of Marin on October 15, 2019 from 12-1pm PST for a webinar release of our Sea Level Rise Adaptation Framework. This new user guide was funded by the Marin Community Foundation and the California State Coastal Conservancy and was developed to help planners and other stakeholders include nature-based strategies when addressing sea level rise hazards. The framework helps planners determine which nature-based measures are suitable given specific site conditions and desired outcomes, and offers an approach for transparently considering multiple benefits to evaluate trade-offs among strategies. Nature-based solutions to sea-level rise include measures like restoring coarse beaches to reduce wave energy, conserving and restoring wetlands that can act as buffers, and preparing “migration spaces” that marshes can transition into as sea level rises.

Sign up for the webinar. The webinar is being hosted by the California Coastal Resilience Network—there are limited spots, so grab yours now.

The resources in the user guide are intended to help coastal decision-makers (1) efficiently identify a range of natural and nature-based, landscape-scale adaptation strategies that can address coastal climate change vulnerabilities, (2) evaluate how well these adaptation strategies achieve coastal community and stakeholder objectives, and (3) prioritize their implementation. We demonstrate the application of the framework by illustrating the decision-making process with examples from two regions of the Marin County shoreline.

The framework, case studies, and resources presented in our user guide are a step toward addressing the challenges in transitioning from community vulnerability assessment to action. Our framework is a complement to broader adaptation planning guidance, and aligns with many efforts currently under development in California, including the update to the California Adaptation Planning Guide. The adaptation phase of Marin County’s Bay Waterfront Adaptation and Vulnerability Evaluation (BayWAVE) project was used as a test case with the intent that the framework developed be applicable around the entire San Francisco Estuary and beyond.

For more information and to access the User Guide, visit

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Our work is more important now than ever. Help SFEI to deliver visionary science that empowers people to revitalize nature in our communities.
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