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Salt Marsh Zonal Migration and Ecosystem Service Change in Response to Global Sea Level Rise: A Case Study from an Urban Region

Rusty A Feagin, Texas A&M University
M. Luisa Martinez, Instituto de Ecología, A.C.
Gabriela Mendoza-Gonzalez, Instituto de Ecología, A.C.
Robert Costanza, University of Vermont


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Coastal wetland plants are expected to respond to global sea level rise by migrating toward higher elevations. Housing, infrastructure, and other anthropogenic modifications are expected to limit the space available for this potential migration. Here, we explore the ecological and economic effects of projected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 report sea level changes at the plant community scale using the highest horizontal (1 m) and vertical (0.01 m) resolution data available, using a 6 x 6 km area as an example. Our findings show that salt marshes do not always lose land with increasing rates of sea level rise. We found that the lower bound of the IPCC 2007 potential rise (0.18 m by 2095) actually increased the total marsh area. This low rise scenario resulted in a net gain in ecosystem service values on public property, whereas market-based economic losses were predicted for private property. The upper rise scenario (0.59 m by 2095) resulted in both public and private economic losses for this same area. Our work highlights the trade-offs between public and privately held value under the various IPCC 2007 climate change scenarios. We conclude that as wetlands migrate inland into urbanized regions, their survival is likely to be dependent on the rate of return on property and housing investments.

Key words

coastal ecology; coastal plant migration; sea level rise; spatial analysis

Copyright © 2010 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087