Coasts and sea-level rise

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Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Chris Fields, SESYNC
Julie Lockwood, Collaborating Mentor

Coastlines are often characterized by the coexistence of high human population density and productive ecosystems, such as tidal marshes, mangroves, beaches, and reefs. These ecosystems are facing a host of emerging threats from sea-level rise (SLR), highlighting the need for innovative research to address them. One such innovation is better synthesis of ecological and social drivers to produce more realistic projections of ecosystem extent and persistence. Integrative research is especially needed for tidal marshes, which will likely experience widespread losses by the end of the century and are already showing signs of drowning as a result of increased coastal flooding. Two ways in which tidal marsh species and habitat might persist in the face of SLR is landward migration to drier areas and evolutionary adaption to increased flooding. Both processes are likely to be critical in the near term for the continued persistence of saltmarsh sparrows (Ammodramus caudacutus), a songbird that is endemic to tidal marshes. I will create realistic projections of marsh ecosystem extent and persistence, including extinction risk for saltmarsh sparrows, based on a model that synthesizes the important physical, ecological, evolutionary, and social factors. These social factors include a wide range of societal responses to SLR, including regulation at global and local scales as well as the individual actions of landowners, which will be incorporated using a recent survey of behavioral intentions. The integration of these social factors and scenarios will ensure that the resulting projections are appropriately realistic and capable of informing ongoing conservation and policy.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
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