Prioritize - Conserving Coastal Wetlands for Sea Level Rise Adaptation

Prioritizing Areas for Protection

The following spatial techniques, especially if used together, can help guide conservation efforts that maintain the wetland functions and ecosystem services that humans depend on, ultimately increasing the resilience of both natural and built communities. Prioritizing the wetlands that are most strategic for conservation is an important component of any sea level rise adaptation plan.

Resources

InVEST: Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs – Tools to map and value the goods and services from nature to help prioritize conservation decisions

Introducing Green Infrastructure for Coastal Resilience – Training that provides context and an introduction to spatial techniques for conserving ecosystem services to increase resilience


Consider Size and Proximity

Core areas represent a range of habitat types and provide biological connections, biodiversity, and ecological functions. Core wetland areas can be identified within larger ecosystems by considering characteristics such as the requirements of plants and animal species. Areas in close proximity can promote resilience, providing places for recovery if sea level rise impacts occur.

 

Use land cover data to identify current wetland types for core areas. Use wetland migration models to find areas that may be less affected by sea level rise and therefore provide a place of refuge for impacted species.

Resources

C-CAP Land Cover Atlas – Tool that enables users to view land cover data and explore changes and trends without the use of GIS

C-CAP Regional Land Cover – Nationally standardized land cover data that can be used to identify core wetland areas and other associated habitat types

Habitat Priority Planner – GIS analysis tool that can prioritize areas for conservation, including core wetland areas

National Wetlands Inventory –Wetland cover data that can be used to identify core wetland areas

Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) – Tool that simulates the potential impacts of long-term sea level rise on wetlands and shorelines

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer – Tool that displays maps of potential sea level rise impacts on wetlands to help prioritize current and future areas for conservation, including core areas

Shifting Shorelines, Shifting Conservation Strategies: Assessing Wetland Conservation Priorities in Maryland – Document highlighting geospatial best practices for incorporating sea level rise into wetland conservation priorities and how the State of Maryland has applied these concepts to identify priority wetland conservation areas for climate adaptation


Locate Buffers

Buffers around important wetland areas will aid in habitat migration and lessen potential negative impacts to the wetlands from surrounding threats. Wetlands buffering human communities will extend natural protection from sea level rise impacts. Locate buffers by identifying cushion areas adjacent to coastal wetlands and vulnerable developed areas. Use land cover data to help identify different wetland types and adjacent habitats that provide buffering to core wetlands.

Results from wetland migration modeling will provide predictions of future coastal wetland areas where forward-looking communities will also want to prioritize buffers. Inundation and storm surge mapping results will identify vulnerable developed areas where wetland buffer areas may improve resilience.

Resources

C-CAP Land Cover Atlas – Tool that enables users to view land cover data and explore changes and trends without the use of GIS

C-CAP Regional Land Cover – Nationally standardized land cover data that can be used to identify wetland buffer areas and adjacent land cover

Coastal Inundation Mapping – Training that teaches spatial techniques for mapping inundation, including storm surge considerations

Mapping Coastal Inundation Primer – Publication that details a four-step process for mapping inundation, including storm surge considerations

Conservation Buffers – Website that offers guidance and resources for planning and designing buffers in rural and urban landscapes to protect various ecosystem services

Habitat Priority Planner – GIS analysis tool that can prioritize areas for conservation, including buffer areas

Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) – Tool that simulates the potential impacts of long-term sea level rise on wetlands and shorelines

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer – Tool that creates maps of potential sea level rise impacts on wetlands to help prioritize current and future areas for conservation, including buffer areas

Shifting Shorelines, Shifting Conservation Strategies: Assessing Wetland Conservation Priorities in Maryland – Document highlighting geospatial best practices for incorporating sea level rise into wetland conservation priorities and how the State of Maryland has applied these concepts to identify priority wetland conservation areas for climate adaptation


View of wetlands
Promote Connectivity

Habitat areas must be connected in order for coastal wetlands and species impacted by sea level rise to migrate and therefore survive. Consider reducing wetland fragmentation by conserving areas that connect habitats. Use land cover data and wetland migration models to find undeveloped areas, such as forests, freshwater wetlands, or restored agricultural or other lands, that could facilitate movement.

Resources

C-CAP Land Cover Atlas – Tool that enables users to view land cover data and explore changes and trends without the use of GIS

C-CAP Regional Land Cover – Nationally standardized land cover data that can be used to identify habitats suitable for facilitating wetland migration

Conservation Buffers – Website that offers guidance and resources for planning and designing corridors in rural and urban landscapes to protect various ecosystem services

Habitat Priority Planner – GIS analysis tool that can help prioritize areas for conservation, including wetland migration corridors

Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model (SLAMM) – Tool that simulates the potential impacts of long-term sea level rise on wetlands and shorelines

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer – Tool that displays maps of potential sea level rise impacts on wetlands to help prioritize current and future areas for conservation, including wetland migration corridors

Shifting Shorelines, Shifting Conservation Strategies: Assessing Wetland Conservation Priorities in Maryland – Document highlighting geospatial best practices for incorporating sea level rise into wetland conservation priorities and how the State of Maryland has applied these concepts to identify priority wetland conservation areas for climate adaptation


Practice Adaptive Management

No one knows for sure what the future holds. There are uncertainties in the projections of future sea level rise, the ways in which species and ecosystems will respond, and how well specific management actions will facilitate sea level rise adaptation. With these uncertainties, practicing adaptive management is essential.

Monitor the effects of sea level rise on coastal wetlands and adjacent areas over time by using land cover change data to assess spatial changes on the landscape (view a webinar on this subject) and to understand adaptability. Learn from management actions by developing indicators to measure results, and incorporate flexibility so that management actions can be adjusted, if needed, to improve outcomes.

Resources

C-CAP Land Cover Atlas – Tool that enables users to view land cover data and explore changes and trends without the use of GIS

C-CAP Regional Land Cover – Nationally standardized land cover change data that can be used to monitor changes on the landscape



Read how the North Carolina chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are evaluating the effects of various adaptation strategies on areas likely to be impacted by sea level rise in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

View additional publications and websites to learn more about these concepts.