Coastal wetland adaptation to sea level rise: Quantifying potential for landward migration and coastal squeeze

We investigated the following questions for estuaries along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast: which estuaries have the largest amount of land available for the landward migration of tidal saline wetlands; and which estuaries have the largest amount of low-lying, urban lands that are expected to prevent landward migration of tidal saline wetlands ? For 39 estuaries, we quantified and compared the potential for landward migration and coastal squeeze, under three alternative future sea level rise scenarios

Sinéad M. Borchert; Michael J. Osland; Nicholas M. Enwright; Kereen T. Griffith

2018

Scholarcy highlights

  • Coastal wetland ecosystems are expected to migrate landwards in response to rising seas
  • The Atchafalaya/Vermilion Bays, Mermentau River and Barataria Bay estuaries are the highest ranking and account for 42% of the total landward migration expected in the study area
  • Coastal scientists have long recognized that landward migration corridors are an important strategy for maximizing the adaptive capacity of coastal wetlands in response to sea level rise, data limitations in many estuaries have hindered efforts to quantify the potential for landward migration and coastal squeeze
  • Most of these studies have been conducted in Australia and the United States, but the potential for landward migration has been examined along the coasts of Martinique, the United Kingdom, Germany, Kenya and Canada. Some of these studies have focused upon the effects of sea level rise on habitat for fish and wildlife species, while others have examined the implications for certain ecosystem services
  • Low-lying urban lands are expected to prevent the landward migration of coastal wetlands, which could result in wetland loss if the existing wetlands are not able to adjust to sea level rise via vertical elevation change
  • Our analyses identified the following six estuaries as having a large amount of urban land that is expected to impede wetland migration: Charlotte Harbor; Tampa Bay; Crystal-Pithlachascotee; Galveston Bay; Atchafalaya/Vermilion Bays; and West Mississippi Sound

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