“Predicting future salt marsh change along the South Atlantic coast” with Daniel Slone, Research Ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
The South Atlantic Conservation Blueprint is a data-driven spatial plan that identifies priority areas for shared conservation action. It incorporates information on current resources, and conservation plans based on terrestrial, freshwater, marine, and cross-ecosystem indicators to measure the overall health of South Atlantic ecosystems. There are currently about 30 indicators in eleven ecosystem types in the Blueprint, with spatial indices such as habitat suitability for different species, extent of buffer habitats, density of roads or other features and other similar products. While current conditions of these indicators are available, future environmental and anthropogenic conditions will differ, potentially influencing management decisions to respond to or mitigate changes or take early action to prevent unwanted effects.
Efforts to model drivers of indicator change led to a “bottom-up” approach, with habitat change—especially intrusion of saltwater into inland habitats—identified as a pervasive and important factor in the region. Changes in coastal salt-marsh habitat extent and location has the potential to subsequently migrate changes in freshwater and upland habitats. As with the current Blueprint indicators, efforts to predict future conditions will also be data-driven. To model extent and potential changes in saltwater marsh habitat, we relied primarily on products from the NOAA Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP). This program incorporates detailed coastal and wetland habitat descriptive categories into the National Land Cover Database (NLCD). C-CAP classifications 2001, 2006, 2011 were used to calculate extent and yearly change of marine open water, salt marsh, and palustrine wetland categories. A linear extrapolation and confidence bands of the change in extent of each habitat type were calculated for each of the coastal sub-regions in the South Atlantic Blueprint, and this prediction was mapped back on to the 2011 C-CAP using 2-D spatial convolution. The end result is a spatial prediction of the percent risk of habitat migration across the Blueprint domain. The resulting information will be valuable to managers looking to prioritize decisions involving coastal habitat change or protection.
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