Research Title: Impacts of Global Change on Coastal Lands & Ecosystems
Funding Level (millions of dollars):
Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Subcommittee (100%)
(b) Environmental Issue: Large-Scale Changes in Land Use (85%), Natural Variability (15%)
(c) Research Activity: System structure and function: Understanding (50%), Observation (8%); Assessment (20%); Data Management (22%)
U.S. Geological Survey
104 National Center
Reston, VA 22092
Point of Contact:
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.
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
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.
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.