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Conservation Gateway » Conservation By Geography » North America » United States » Eastern US » Science and Data » Climate Change » Coastal Resilience

Resilient Coastal Sites for Conservation in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic

“Resilient Coastal Sites has the potential to catalyze a host of proactive steps by local communities concerned about the long-term prospects for their coastal resources.”
-Wendi Weber, 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Coastal sites vary widely in their ability to accommodate rising seas, based on inherent natural features and the degree of human influence on key ecological processes. Scientists from The Nature Conservancy evaluated over 10,000 coastal sites in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for their capacity to sustain biodiversity and natural services under increasing inundation from sea level.  Each site received a resilience “score” based on the likelihood that its coastal habitats can and will migrate to adjacent lowlands. The products of this study include: 
  • A report describing the methods used to evaluate sites and the results for each coastal shoreline region in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. 
  • A web tool allowing users to view and interact with the results for any coastal site 
  • A story map allowing users to explore a variety of coastal conservation strategies such as land acquisition, restoration, enhancing productivity, conserving biodiversity, and others 
  • Downloadable datasets including results for additional sea level rise scenarios 

Northeast Findings:  With no action, the region could see an estimated 83% loss of existing tidal habitats to severe inundation, yet there are thousands of individual sites where tidal habitats could increase and expand through landward migration, reversing this trend. With proper management, these resilient sites could offset over 50% of tidal habitat loss, providing critical habitat for birds and other wildlife, and buffering people from the effects of storms and floods. Conservation of these resilient sites is critical if we are to sustain nature’s diversity and benefits into the future.

Partners: This two year project was guided by a steering committee of 35 scientists from: The Nature Conservancy, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Massachusetts, Maine Natural Heritage Program, Delaware Natural Heritage Program, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Funding: This research was funded by a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative.  Funding has been secured through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation as well as the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation to extend this work through the Southeast and Gulf coasts of the U.S..