PROGRAM TITLE:	Impacts of Global Change on Coastal Lands and 
Ecosystems
ACTIVITY STREAMS:	Process, Observations/Data Mgmt., Modeling
SCIENCE ELEMENTS:	Ecological Systems and Dynamics, Solid Earth 
Processes

 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

DESCRIPTION:  What have been and will be the impacts of global change on 
coastal lands, ecosystems, and biodiversity are significant concerns of resource 
managers and planners in coastal regions.  This program addresses the 
impacts of sea level fluctuations or rise and climate variability or change on 
coastal wetlands, coastal barriers and associated landward aquatic ecosystems, 
and their biological diversity.  The program draws on the established 
infrastructure within the DOI for managed and protected study sites, 
laboratory and support facilities, and information management.

Wetlands:  Geologic records show that, within limits, coastal marshes can 
grow vertically as sea level fluctuates.  Our studies test the hypothesis that as 
much as 95 percent of our coastal wetlands could be lost owing to sea level 
rise associated with human-induced or natural global change.  Controlled 
experiments using altered water levels on diked coastal wetlands will 
determine the effects of sea level rise on biomass production, peat 
accumulation, soil elevation, and marsh community health.  In other studies, 
researchers will compare recent changes in wetland systems along the eastern 
Gulf and southern Atlantic coasts of the United States with changes being 
documented in the Mississippi Delta.  The goals are (1) to establish credible 
limits on the ability of coastal wetlands to adapt to sea level rise by vertical 
growth and (2) to compare these results to predicted rates of sea level rise.

Coastal Barrier Systems:  Studies are designed to test current predictions that 
sea level rise initiated by human-induced or natural global change would 
have major destructive impacts on coastal barrier systems and related 
ecosystems.  The program integrates current observations, data, and process 
research to improve and test existing geological and ecological models to 
predict system responses to changing sea level; frequency, magnitude, and 
tracks of storms; and atmospheric temperature gradients.  The program will 
assess analytical procedures to identify trends in data sets, distinguish trends 
from noise, and determine lengths of records needed to document accurately 
any real climate change.

Information infrastructure:  Wetland characteristics (depth, turbidity, salinity, 
and habitat information) and water level stages are being recorded in a 
Geographic Information Systems database to be used by researchers 
developing models to predict the effect of sea level rise.  Data are managed by 
the National Wetlands Research Center in Slidell, Louisiana.  Barrier island 
systems data are being archived and managed according to protocols and 
procedures being developed during FY 1993-1994 by the NPS Global Change 
data administrator.

STAKEHOLDERS:  Data and information are available to all agencies and 
researchers in the USGCRP.  The NPS and USFWS provide protected research 
areas (some in the International Network of Biosphere Reserves) that are 
invaluable for researchers and for developing educational programs to foster 
public awareness of global change issues.  Observations and data from this 
program will improve understanding of coastal ecosystem processes and the 
utility of models for predicting impacts of sea level fluctuations or rise and 
interacting factors on coastal environments.  The program will provide the 
NPS, USFWS, other ecosystem managers, and planners in coastal regions a 
basis for assessing local to regional impacts of environmental change on 
certain coastal systems.  Partnerships and agreements are in place between 
DOI bureaus and with the DOD, NASA, NOAA, NSF, States of Louisiana and 
Florida, and numerous universities.

SHORT-TERM POLICY PAYOFFS:  New understanding of wetlands can be 
applied immediately to improve current ecosystem management decisions 
and will provide an informed basis on which to develop long-term policies 
and mitigation strategies responding to future sea level rise or fluctuation.  
New understanding of coastal barrier systems will facilitate improved 
management and policy decisions concerning both natural and developed 
coastal barriers and the structure and function of their associated ecosystems.

PROGRAM CONTACT:	Dr. Peter Comanor
	Global Change Program Coordinator
	National Biological Survey
	U.S. Department of the Interior
	1849 C Street, N.W.
	Mail Stop 725
	Washington, D.C.  20240
	Phone (703) 358-1710
	Fax (703) 358-2228