New Study Could Help Pacific Wetlands Adapt to Sea Level Rise


A new study published Wednesday in Science Advances introduces an innovative tool to help resource managers preserve Pacific coastal wetlands from rising sea levels.

According to the article, even the lowest predicted rates of sea level rise could cause significant losses of Pacific tidal wetlands by the end of the century. Tidal wetlands provide many services for growing coastal communities. Their habitats filter water, sequester carbon, provide habitat for endangered species, protect communities from storm surges, and support local fisheries. To measure the vulnerability of these environments to sea level rise, researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey, University of California, Los Angeles, Oregon

“This study is powerful because it brings together data from multiple experts to predict how different rates of sea level rise could affect tidal wetland habitats across the Pacific coast. It’s unique because it takes modeling results and translates them into possible scenarios for resource managers to evaluate and take action with,” says Dr. Karen Thorne, a USGS research ecologist and the paper’s lead author.

The project evaluated the vertical and horizontal response of 14 estuaries to a range of projected changes in rate of sea level rise. The scientists’ approach incorporated site-specific data on wetland elevation, tidal inundation, accretion rates, soil characteristics, and predicted rates of sea level rise into a dynamic process model to create high-resolution predictions of marsh vulnerability to sea level rise through the century. Study results indicate that the magnitude of marsh elevation lost varied by site and rate of sea level rise. However, the loss of tidal wetlands was highest in the latter part of the 21st century and under highest rates of sea level rise.

Continue reading at USGS

Image via Kat Powelson, California Landscape Conservation Cooperative