Patsch, K.; King, P.; Reineman, D.R.; Jenkins, S.; Steele, C.; Gaston, E., and Anderson, S., 2021. Beach sustainability assessment: The development and utility of an interdisciplinary approach to sandy beach monitoring. Journal of Coastal Research, 37(6), 1130–1157. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
Sandy beaches are valued for various ecosystem services but are increasingly imperiled by anthropogenic stressors. Sea-level rise (SLR), reductions to sand supply, hardening the position of the coastline, and the prevalence of human development along California's coast combine to reduce the fundamental dynamism critical to the resilience of California's beaches. If California continues with business as usual, many of its beaches will erode and eventually disappear. Coastal jurisdictions in California are planning for SLR. However, these coastal managers lack a standardized regional assessment tool that compiles information on the current and likely future condition of sandy beaches. Without such a tool, these managers have limited ability to analyze the integrated impacts of historic decisions or future alternative management scenarios upon beach morphology, ecological functioning, economics, and social utility. This paper presents a study of the Beach Sustainability Assessment (BSA) decision support tool applied to 17 beaches spanning Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles counties. In addition to scoring and grading geomorphological, ecological functioning, and social utility components, the BSA provides a single, overall grade for each beach. To demonstrate the utility of the BSA, a scenario with 1 m of SLR and a 100-year storm was simulated to assess the changes to the overall grade and component grades. The BSA offers a cost-effective, standardized protocol to monitor the condition of California's sandy beach ecosystems. The metrics support spatial and temporal comparisons on a regional scale, giving coastal managers and stakeholders the ability to assess real trade-offs among management solutions. Current BSA indices indicate that beaches in the Southern California Bight study area are already struggling, with most urban beaches receiving Cs and Ds for ecological functioning. The SLR stressor test indicates that ecological functioning and social utility will continue to decline with increasing sea levels.