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  1. Coastal dunes are globally recognized as natural features that can be important adaptation approaches for climate change along urban and natural shores. We evaluated the recovery of coastal dunes on an intensively groomed urban beach in southern California over a six-year period after grooming was discontinued. Restoration actions were minimal and included installation of three sides of perimeter sand fencing, cessation of mechanical grooming and driving, and the addition of seeds of native dune plants. To track recovery, we conducted physical and biological surveys of the restoration site and an adjacent control site (groomed beach) using metrics including sand accretion, elevation, foredune and hummock formation, vegetation recovery, and wildlife use. Sediment accretion, elevation, and geomorphic complexity increased over time in the restoration site, largely in association with sand fencing and dune vegetation. A foredune ridge (maximum elevation increase of 0.9 m) and vegetated hummocks developed, along with a general increase in elevation across the restoration site (0.3 m). After six years, an estimated total volume of approximately 1,730 m3of sand had accreted in the restoration site and 540 m3of sand had accreted in the foredune ridge. Over the same period, more than a meter of sediment (vertical elevation change) accumulated along the perimeter sand fencing. Groomed control areas remained flat and uniform. The total cover of vegetation in the restoration site increased over time to a maximum of approximately 7% cover by the sixth year. No vegetation was observed on the groomed control site. Native plant species formed distinct zones across the restoration site beginning by the second year and increasing over time, with dune forming species aggregating closest to the ocean in association with the incipient foredune ridge. Ecological functions observed in the restoration area included presence of dune invertebrates, shorebird roosting, and use by a breeding federally threatened shorebird, the western snowy plover (Charadrius nivosus nivosus). Our findings on geomorphic and ecological responses of a pilot dune restoration on a heavily groomed urban beach provide new insights on the opportunities and expectations for restoring dunes as nature-based solutions for climate adaptation on urban shorelines.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 19, 2024
  2. Abstract As the climate evolves over the next century, the interaction of accelerating sea level rise (SLR) and storms, combined with confining development and infrastructure, will place greater stresses on physical, ecological, and human systems along the ocean-land margin. Many of these valued coastal systems could reach “tipping points,” at which hazard exposure substantially increases and threatens the present-day form, function, and viability of communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems. Determining the timing and nature of these tipping points is essential for effective climate adaptation planning. Here we present a multidisciplinary case study from Santa Barbara, California (USA), to identify potential climate change-related tipping points for various coastal systems. This study integrates numerical and statistical models of the climate, ocean water levels, beach and cliff evolution, and two soft sediment ecosystems, sandy beaches and tidal wetlands. We find that tipping points for beaches and wetlands could be reached with just 0.25 m or less of SLR (~ 2050), with > 50% subsequent habitat loss that would degrade overall biodiversity and ecosystem function. In contrast, the largest projected changes in socioeconomic exposure to flooding for five communities in this region are not anticipated until SLR exceeds 0.75 m for daily flooding and 1.5 m for storm-driven flooding (~ 2100 or later). These changes are less acute relative to community totals and do not qualify as tipping points given the adaptive capacity of communities. Nonetheless, the natural and human built systems are interconnected such that the loss of natural system function could negatively impact the quality of life of residents and disrupt the local economy, resulting in indirect socioeconomic impacts long before built infrastructure is directly impacted by flooding. 
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  3. Hyrenbach, David (Ed.)
    The coastal zone provides foraging opportunities for insular populations of terrestrial mammals, allowing for expanded habitat use, increased dietary breadth, and locally higher population densities. We examined the use of sandy beach resources by the threatened island fox ( Urocyon littoralis ) on the California Channel Islands using scat analysis, surveys of potential prey, beach habitat attributes, and stable isotope analysis. Consumption of beach invertebrates, primarily intertidal talitrid amphipods ( Megalorchestia spp.) by island fox varied with abundance of these prey across sites. Distance-based linear modeling revealed that abundance of giant kelp ( Macrocystis pyrifera ) wrack, rather than beach physical attributes, explained the largest amount of variation in talitrid amphipod abundance and biomass across beaches. δ 13 C and δ 15 N values of fox whisker (vibrissae) segments suggested individualism in diet, with generally low δ 13 C and δ 15 N values of some foxes consistent with specializing on primarily terrestrial foods, contrasting with the higher isotope values of other individuals that suggested a sustained use of sandy beach resources, the importance of which varied over time. Abundant allochthonous marine resources on beaches, including inputs of giant kelp, may expand habitat use and diet breadth of the island fox, increasing population resilience during declines in terrestrial resources associated with climate variability and long-term climate change. 
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