“Identifying Resilient Coastal Sites in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico” with Analie Barnett and Mark Anderson, The Nature Conservancy
Nearly half of all Americans live and work in coastal counties, areas that also provide critical habitat for a diversity of fish and wildlife. Important as these places are for supporting human and natural communities, their capacity to do so in the face of rising sea levels varies widely. Coastal sites flanked by extensive lowlands have space for coastal habitats to migrate landward in response to sea level rise. However, this potential habitat migration can be impeded by human activities that physically block movement, degrade ecological condition, and disrupt key ecological processes. We are evaluating over 5,000 sites in the South Atlantic and US Gulf of Mexico for the size, configuration, and tidal diversity of their migration space, and for the natural processes necessary to support the migration of coastal habitats landward as the sea level rises. Each site will ultimately receive a resilience “score” based on the likelihood that its coastal habitats can migrate to adjacent lowlands under different sea level rise scenarios. This work, funded by NOAA’s Coastal and Ocean Climate Applications (COCA) program, the Donnelley Foundation, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, is expected to be complete by September 2019. During the webinar, we will introduce the key concepts and approaches in this project, and present draft results for the assessment of each site’s physical characteristics. We will then discuss the condition attributes we will be mapping over the coming months, and conclude with examples of how the results can be used by communities and resource managers to better prioritize land acquisition, identify areas for restoration, and develop effective strategies for sustaining the natural benefits provided by coastal habitats.
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