Advancing Solutions

Many agencies and organizations are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to slow the rate of climate change, an effort that Oregon Shores strongly endorses. However, significant impacts on the Oregon Coast are already inevitable as a consequence of past emissions. We encourage local and state governments to actively plan and establish strategies for adapting to these changes. In some cases, we participate in the planning process, advocating for climate solutions to be integrated into land use plans. We also generate support for legislation that advances state-wide climate policy. Climate change is central to all our work because it threatens our coastal resources and public safety.

We also produced a Citizen’s Guide: Adapting to Climate Change on the Oregon Coast (2015), designed as a helpful tool for engaged citizens and decision-makers to help advance climate adaptation and planning. Through the Coastal Law Project, we have developed guidelines and model ordinances to advance the legal framework for addressing eroding coastlines and shifting wetland areas.

Planning for change

Adaptation, Mitigation, and Action

With this information, we are looking ahead to cutting-edge climate planning in the future. Much work needs to be done to update the land use planning system and all of the state’s Estuary Management Plans to address climate change meaningfully, plan for habitats migrating upslope with rising seas, and protect natural resources and infrastructure without artificially armoring the shoreline. Further challenges and questions arise with off-shore wind development and managed retreat. Oregon Shores looks at every issue through the lens of climate resilience and takes every opportunity to help progress adaptive planning in our work.

Key Areas of Concern

Oregon’s coastline and nearshore ocean is highly sensitive to the effects of global climate change. Warmer water can disrupt marine ecosystems, alter food webs, spread diseases, encourage cold-water species to migrate northward. Increased ocean temperatures also impact commercially important species like salmon and Dungeness crab, as well as bird species that forage in the ocean, such as the threatened marbled murrelets, which may struggle to colonize specific habitats during periods of high ocean temperatures. In general, warmer waters and changing currents can leave the nearshore ocean depleted in food sources, with consequences ramifying through the entire marine and coastal food web.

These coastal changes are part of a broader trend. Across the state, alterations in air and water temperatures, precipitation patterns, and runoff, driven by human-induced climate change, worsen habitat loss and other challenges for various species and ecosystems. The projected rate of climate change over the next century exceeds anything experienced in the last 65 million years, making it challenging to predict the future of Oregon’s coastal ecosystems and communities.

Ocean Acidification

The Pacific Northwest is experiencing ocean acidification more rapidly than other regions of the globe. Oregon was one of the first areas of the world to experience direct economic consequences, evidenced by the Whiskey Creek shellfish hatchery collapse in 2007. We now have a unique opportunity and challenge to lead the nation in responding to this threat to protect our marine food webs. Oregon Shores aims to educate the public about ocean acidification and support public policy that furthers action.

Ocean Acidification and Hypoxia Action Plan

Natural Climate Solutions

Progressing the widespread implementation of natural climate solutions (NCS) across the coast could yield many co-benefits beyond carbon sequestration and is an immediate, cost-effective method to build climate resilience. NCS actions offer ecosystem services, such as enhanced water quality, increased biodiversity, and erosion control, while also enhancing carbon capture. Oregon Shores is working to advance these comprehensive solutions by engaging in estuary management and resilience planning and supporting public policies that invest in NCS.

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Coastal Hazards

Oregon Statewide Land Use Goal 7 addresses coastal hazards. We seek to employ this goal to its best advantage in guiding land use planning toward anticipating hazards and avoiding risks. By taking such hazards as erosion, flooding due to sea level rise, storm surges, landslides, and tsunamis into account, planners can better protect public safety while avoiding struggles over shoreline armoring and other attempts to protect property at the expense of the environment.

Oregon Sea Grant’s Coastal Hazards Information

Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise will affect the location and functioning of many human developments, natural resources, and important ecological areas. Many past conservation gains, such as protections for certain natural areas, will be eroded – literally and figuratively – by sea level rise. Understanding and planning for these changes to support ecosystem health and the resilience of human communities will be challenging and require a holistic approach to coastal management.

Oregon Shores’ CoastWatch volunteers collaborate with the Oregon Coastal Management Program on the Oregon King Tides Project to help document the effect that sea level rise will likely have on our coastal infrastructure and resources. The information gained from this project will help shape Oregon’s response to sea level rise in the decades to come.

Monitor Sea Level Rise with CoastWatch

Help us create healthy and resilient Oregon coast where nature and people all thrive together.