Table 3. Direct connections between social, global climate change (GCC), and ecological impacts in four coastal lagoons.

Lagoon system
Characteristic Barataria Bay Rhode Island salt ponds Carolina Outer Banks and Lowcounty Jamaica Bay
Geography/social Barataria Bay lagoon systems: these largely rural settings are replete with small settlements populated by marsh dwellers who live as part of the landscape1 A “string of pearls” of shallow coastal salt ponds representing a range of lagoon settings: tourism sprawl, exurban, and nature refuges2 A strand of islands and barrier beaches rich in history from the traditionally accepted founding of the first colony in America to the influence of the slave trade and the Civil War. These barrier islands also have a history of extreme vulnerability to hurricanes3 A lagoon located within Gateway National Park in the outer boroughs of New York City (specifically, Brooklyn and Queens), directly adjacent to John F. Kennedy International Airport. The park attracts 6 million visitors each year4
Anticipated GCC impacts Air temperature: Predicted to increase by 1.1–2.2˚C by 21005
Precipitation: Increase of 10% in summer and fall11 leads to 1–3 parts per trillion decrease in salinity12
Sea level: Rate of increase is faster than marsh accretion rates19
Storms: Vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes, which cause devastation of marsh grasses, wash-over fans, and erosion from shallow areas20, 21
Air temperature: Predicted to increase by 1.9–6.9˚C by 21006
Sea level: Accelerated increase13 will increase erosion of barrier beaches, landward migration of barriers,14 and extensive loss of coastal wetlands13
Storms: High degree of shoreline change due to the narrow and low profile of barrier beaches13
Precipitation: High flow to estuaries with large watersheds are most common7
Sea level: The relative increase is between 3 and 4 mm/yr15,16,17,18
Storms: Vulnerable to tropical storms and hurricanes, which accelerate inlet formation, wash-over fans, and inundation15,22,23,24,25
Storms: More frequent storm surges and greater wave action superimposed on sea level increase will exacerbate marsh erosion8,9,10
Ecological impacts (examples) Increased salinity from sea level increase will result in the loss of nursery and mating habitat, affecting juvenile penaeid shrimp and blue crabs, both of which are commercially important.26,27 Conversely, the increased marsh subsidence will benefit shrimp by increasing the amount of time the marsh surface is available28 Temperature stress and increased water depth and salinity from sea level increase will affect seagrass habitats.29 Shifts in species, species distribution, and abundance of seagrasses may occur, affecting local species that are dependent on seagrass habitat such as juvenile flounder29 Migratory birds that depend on barrier beaches will experience the loss of habitat.30 Low oxygen conditions resulting from increased eutrophication will have negative impacts on vulnerable species such as striped bass30 Without adequate sediment supply and with increased erosion, populations of horseshoe crabs will be affected by the loss of suitable shoreline for breeding habitat.31 Decreases in food supply from decreases in horseshoe crab eggs and in salt marsh habitat will negatively affect migrating shorebirds31,32

1: Gramling and Hagelman 2004, 2: Lee 1980, 3: Bailey 1999, 4: Hoffmann 2006, 5: Ning and Abdollahi 2003, 6: Frumhoff et al. 2007, 7: Dame et al. 2000, 8: Gornitz et al. 2002, 9: Hartig et al. 2002, 10: Rosenzweig et al. 2007, 11: Turner 2003, 12: Swenson 2003, 13: Donnelly and Bertness 2001, 14: Boothroyd et al. 1985, 15: Dame et al. 2000, 16: Leatherman et al. 2000, 17: Simas et al. 2001, 18: Titus and Richman 2001, 19: Hatton et al. 1983, 20: Rodney 1970, 21: Day et al. 2007, 22: Fenster and Dolan 1994, 23: Zhang et al. 2004, 24: Paerl et al. 2005, 25: Greening et al. 2006, 26: Darnell 1959; 27: Gunter 1961, 28: Rozas and Reed 1993, 29: Short and Neckles 1999, 30: Najjar et al. 2000, 31: Botton et al. 2006, 32: Brown et al. 2001.