Adaptation Planning Research and Publications

At the national, regional and state level, there are a number of resources that may be useful to communities looking for a deeper understanding of the potential for sea level rise and adaptation options available. Below are a few recommendations.

  • Adaptation Tool Kit: Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Land Use - The Adaptation Tool Kit explores 18 different land-use tools that can be used to adapt to potential impacts posed by sea-level rise for both public and private coastal development and infrastructure. The Tool Kit assists governments in determining which tools to use to meet their unique socioeconomic and political contexts.
  • Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in Florida - The Florida Oceans and Coastal Council published a 2010 update concerning the potential effects of climate change on Florida's coastal resources. This short primer provides a scientifically based discussion of both historically observed and future projected sea level rise, with an emphasis on sea level rise effects across different coastal categories.
  • Sea Level Rise Adaptation Options For Local Governments - This presentation, prepared by Dr. Robert Deyle of Florida State University's Department of Urban and Regional Planning, delivers an overview of sea level rise challenges facing local governments and available adaptation responses.
  • Sea Level Changes in the Southeastern United States - This 2011 publication by Dr. Gary Mitchum of the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science presents a scientific overview of past, present, and future sea level rise. Written with the non-scientist in mind, Dr. Mitchum's paper is highly accessible, informative, and relevant to Florida's coastal communities.

Adaptation Planning Tools

Below are an array of valuable online tools and resource collections for use in sea level rise adaptation planning:

Adaptation Planning in Florida

Florida has a number of sea level rise adaptation planning projects completed and under development at the state, local and regional levels. Notable projects include:

  • The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact - The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact represents a joint commitment of Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties to partner in mitigating the causes and adapting to the consequences of climate change. The compact is the lead alliance that supports planning for "adaptation action areas," and is working to secure funding to further this effort.
  • Lee County Climate Change Resiliency Strategy - Lee County followed up a 2010 Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment with the Climate Change Resiliency Strategy. This strategy includes approaches to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change while also positioning the County to take advantage of potential economic development opportunities associated with climate change.
  • The City of Punta Gorda Adaptation Plan - The City of Punta Gorda completed a publicly lead adaptation planning process at the city-level to address sea level rise in its downtown area.
  • Municipal Adaptation to Sea-Level Rise: City of Satellite Beach, Florida - In the fall of 2009, the City of Satellite Beach, Florida embarked on a project to: assess municipal vulnerability to rising sea level and initiate the planning process to properly mitigate impacts.

Planning for Coastal Flooding and Sea Level Rise

"Adaptation action area" or "adaptation area" is an optional comprehensive plan designation for areas that experience coastal flooding due to extreme high tides and storm surge and are vulnerable to the related impacts of rising sea levels for the purpose of prioritizing funding for infrastructure needs and adaptation planning. Local governments that adopt an adaptation action area may consider policies within the coastal management element to improve resilience to coastal flooding resulting from high-tide events, storm surge, flash floods, stormwater runoff, and related impacts of sea-level rise. Criteria for the adaptation action area may include:

  • Areas below, at, or near mean higher high water
  • Areas which have a hydrological connection to coastal waters
  • Areas designated as evacuation zones for storm surge

For more information, see the Adaptation Planning in Florida handout.

Statutory References

  • Section 163.3164(1), Florida Statutes
  • Section 163.3177(6)(g)(10), Florida Statutes

Impacts of Rising Sea Levels

Communities that are subject to sea level rise may experience an increase in coastal vulnerability. Impacts to communities may include:

  • Increased flooding and drainage problems,
  • Destruction of natural resource habitats,
  • Higher storms surge, increased evacuation areas and evacuation time frames,
  • Increased shoreline erosion,
  • Saltwater intrusion, and
  • Loss of infrastructure and existing development.

Adaptation Planning Strategies

Adaptation to sea level rise is the steps a community takes to become more resilient to the impacts of rising seas over a period of time. The three main strategies a community may use to adapt to sea level rise are:

  1. Protection - Protection strategies involve "hard" and "soft" structurally defensive measures to mitigate the impacts of rising seas, such as shoreline armoring or beach renourishment, in order to decrease vulnerability yet allow structures and infrastructure in the area to remain unaltered. Protection strategies may be targeted for areas of a community that are location-dependent and cannot be significantly changed structurally (e.g., downtown centers, areas of historical significance, water-dependent uses, etc.).
  2. Accommodation - Accommodation strategies do not act as a barrier to inundation but rather alter the design through measures such as elevation of stormwater improvements, to allow the structure or infrastructure system to stay in place. Adaptation measures do not prevent flooding or inundation of properties but do protect the structures. Accommodation strategies may be suitable for location-dependent structures that could be changed to accommodate water, without compromising the use (e.g., bridge elevation, residential home elevation, downtown stormwater improvements, etc.).
  3. Retreat - Retreat strategies involve the possible relocation of existing development to other areas characterized by lower vulnerabilities and the limitation of future development in high risk areas. Retreat options usually involve the transition of vulnerable land from private to public ownership, but may also include other strategies such as transfer of development rights, purchase of development rights, rolling easements, conservation easements, etc.

Community Resiliency Initiative: Planning for Adaptation to Sea Level Rise

Community Resiliency Logo

In 2012, DEO kicked-off a five-year project to integrate adaptation to potential sea level rise into current planning mechanisms including the local comprehensive plan, local hazard mitigation plan, and local post-disaster redevelopment plan. This effort is steered by a Focus Group of statewide experts on adaptation and coastal vulnerability as well as stakeholders in the coastal area. In the first year of the initiative, DEO researched similar efforts in other states as well as how the "adaptation action area" may be implemented at the local level. The next adaptation planning will be piloted in at least two communities. Finally all lessons learned will be compiled and disseminated statewide. DEO has received additional funding to work with the City of Ft. Lauderdale as it integrates Adaptation Action Areas into its local comprehensive plan.

Products of the Initiative

Relationship between Hazard Mitigation and Adaptation Planning

The actions a community will take to mitigate vulnerability to coastal flooding and sea level rise are very similar. The main difference is that sea level rise adaptation assumes a longer time frame for impact and therefore a longer time frame for need and implementation. Sea level rise also assumes an increase in the vulnerability of areas already subject to coastal flooding and, therefore, adaptation projects take into account the increased vulnerability.

Relationship between the Coastal High-Hazard Area and Adaptation Action Area

While the definition and boundary of the Coastal High-Hazard Area is standardized as the category one storm surge zone as delineated by the SLOSH model, there is no standard boundary for the Adaptation Action Area. If a community chooses to designate an Adaptation Action Area, it is up to the local government to decide what property should be included in the boundary. The main difference between the Coastal High-Hazard Area and the Adaptation Action Area is that the Coastal High-Hazard Area considers current coastal flooding conditions while the Adaptation Action Area encourages planning for future vulnerability as well.


  • Richard Fetchick

    (850) 717-8506

Featured Community

Broward County recently adopted "Broward County Climate Change Element" into their Comprehensive Plan that applies a variety of adaptation policies across countywide transportation, built environment, natural resource, and water resource systems.

Ongoing Efforts

The Department is currently engaged in a five-year project to integrate adaptation into the statewide planning framework. For more information, see Community Resilience Initiative: Planning for Adaptation to Sea Level Rise.

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