Our changing Chesapeake: Adapting agricultural lands to sea level rise and saltwater intrusion


Coastal agricultural communities are on the leading edge of climate change. As sea levels rise, low lying farmland and forests are particularly vulnerable to saltwater intrusion and coastal flooding. Much of the coastline of the Chesapeake Bay extends along the Delmarva Peninsula. The peninsula is home to tidal salt marshes, riparian forests, and farmland, which provide crucial functions for the economic, social, and environmental vitality of the region. With rising seas, farmland and forests in this region are already transitioning to tidal salt marshes. Called "marsh migration," this phenomenon is causing radical shifts in coastal ecosystems and great damage to the agricultural industry. Extensive upland area will be lost by 2025. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It is about 200 miles long, with a total surface area of about 4,480 square miles, an average depth of about 21 feet. The Bay and its tributaries have a shoreline longer than the entire U.S. West Coast. This story map explores how climate change, particularly sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion is affecting rural agricultural coastlines in the lower Delmarva and how we can adapt to this challenge.

Danielle Weissman
Keryn Gedan, George Washington University
Kate Tully, University of Maryland

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