Climate Change
Actions and Solutions

As contributors to mitigation, adaptation, and resilience, sanctuaries are an important nature-based solution to climate change. The National Marine Sanctuary System is taking proactive steps to respond to climate change by adapting to the changing ocean and supporting the capture and storage of carbon dioxide within sanctuaries’ coastal and ocean ecosystems (also known as blue carbon).

A scuba diver holding a 360 camera swims through a coral nursery where coral are growing on nine tall pipes. There is another diver in the background and shorter pipes in the sand in the foreground.

Climate Change Adaptation in National Marine Sanctuaries

The changing climate is bringing new challenges to national marine sanctuaries and the communities that depend on these areas. Sanctuaries, as marine protected areas with a unique role in communities and conservation, play an important role in addressing climate change, including through adaptation. Sanctuaries are beginning to adjust management strategies to adapt to the reality of climate change and build upon the best available scientific information and climate projections. Read more in this StoryMap.

Text-filled page of a document with the title “Climate Change Adaptation in National Marine Sanctuaries,” it has the NOAA and Office of National Marine Sanctuaries logos in the upper right hand corner, a map of sanctuaries, and an image of a diver.

Climate Change Adaptation Infobrief

National marine sanctuaries and other marine protected areas are places of constant change, subject to long term human use and changing physical and ecological processes. Climate change will likely shift the geographic area of economically valuable, culturally important, and ecologically significant species, altering ecosystem structure. Climate change adaptation measures can help ensure the resilience of ecosystem functions and the services they provide for both humans and nature. NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries uses the best available scientific information and climate projections to inform decisions about how to best protect and manage its sites.

Commercial urchin diver harvesting purple urchins.

NOAA Investments to Confront Climate Change in National Marine Sanctuaries

From the kelp forests that support fisheries along California’s coast to the vibrant coral reefs of Hawaiʻi and Florida that attract wildlife and millions of tourists every year—foundational habitats in our ocean continue to be impacted by climate change and marine debris. NOAA recently announced investments of $562 million to 149 projects in 30 states and territories as part of the agency’s Climate-Ready Coasts initiative under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), including projects within America’s national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments.

A kelp forest with many medium-sized blue fish swimming through it.

Blue Carbon and Sanctuaries

Blue carbon is the carbon dioxide captured and stored in coastal and marine ecosystems, such as marshes, mangroves, and the deep ocean floor. Blue carbon ecosystems can help address climate change resulting from the global emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by removing and storing some of that atmospheric carbon dioxide for long timescales in sediments and deep water. Sanctuaries contain blue carbon ecosystems; by protecting and restoring these ecosystems they preserve and grow an important nature-based climate solution.

Olive green, forest green, and dark purple algae of a variety of textures and lengths.

Guidance for the Potential Application of Marine Carbon Dioxide Removal in U.S. National Marine Sanctuaries

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR), in addition to extensive emission reductions, is likely necessary to limit global warming to 1.5 °C. CDR in the marine environment (mCDR), includes approaches like ecosystem recovery and coastal blue carbon, nutrient fertilization, seaweed cultivation and sequestration, and more. Interest in mCDR has increased in recent years, including in the context of national marine sanctuaries. This guidance is meant to respond to that interest and facilitate future discussions about sanctuaries’ engagement with mCDR by providing information on the basic characteristics and key considerations around different mCDR approaches.

Waves crashing along a rocky shore

Ocean Climate Program

The Ocean Climate Program, spearheaded by Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary and Greater Farallones Association and run out of the Ocean Climate Center, addresses climate change impacts in the North-central California coast and ocean region through fostering awareness, advocating solutions, and promoting action among government agencies, public and private organizations, and individuals to build ecosystem resilience and sustainability.

Black oystercatcher walking along the rocky shore.

Ocean Climate Adaptation for the North-Central CA Coast

In November 2016, Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary released its Climate Adaptation Plan, the result of a 2-year process to characterize climate impacts and vulnerabilities to Sanctuary resources along the North-central California coast and ocean, and to develop management strategies to respond to and decrease those vulnerabilities, ultimately enhancing resource resilience to climate impacts. Following the release of the 2016 Climate Adaptation Plan, the Sanctuary has started implementing 9 of the strategies detailed, with current climate adaptation efforts focused on coastal sediment management, bull kelp recovery, and native oyster restoration.

Cover of Evaluation of Erosion Mitigation Alternatives for Southern Monterey Bay, including an image of hang gliders at the beach.

Evaluation of Erosion Mitigation Alternatives for Southern Monterey Bay

This evaluation assesses various erosion mitigation measures to support development of a regional strategy to address coastal hazards in southern Monterey Bay. The purpose of the project is to provide a technical evaluation of various erosion mitigation measures, conduct a cost benefit analysis of some of the more promising measures and to make recommendations on subregional approaches for effectively addressing coastal erosion in Southern Monterey Bay.

Cover of Preparing for the Future: Climate Change and the Monterey Bay Shoreline, including an image of birds on a beach.

Preparing for the Future: Climate Change and the Monterey Bay Shoreline

To facilitate adaptation to climate change in the Monterey Bay region, Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and the Center for Ocean Solutions convened regional decision makers at a one-day workshop, titled “Preparing for the Future: Climate Change and the Monterey Bay Shoreline.” This report summarizes that workshop.

Cover letter for the National Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast: Ocean Acidification Action Plan, including text and the Department of Commerce logo.

National Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast: Ocean Acidification Action Plan

The West Coast Regional Office of NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries created a West Coast Ocean Acidification Task Force to take action on resolutions concerning ocean acidification adopted by sanctuaries. With input from the five west coast national marine sanctuary advisory councils, the task force developed a regional action plan on ocean acidification. The plan includes seven strategies: (1) Monitoring for Ocean Acidification; (2) Research on Ocean Acidification; (3) Education and Outreach; (4) Mitigating Damages to Sanctuary Resources; (5) Influencing Regional and National Policy; (6) Demonstrate Leadership by Reducing Carbon Emissions; and (7) Internal Coordination on Ocean Acidification Issues.

A large white anemone is positioned alone on a rocky substrate covered in encrusting pink coralline algae, and other red algae with giant kelp in the background.


NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries uses climate resilience plans to lay out how the sanctuary system will address climate change and achieve our mission. This plan was implemented from 2021-2023, you may also be interested in our 2024-2026 plan.