This Cooperative incorporates the coastline and barrier islands from the Suwannee River in the Florida panhandle west to the Pearl River, at the state line between Mississippi and Louisiana. The area includes the Apalachicola, Weeks Bay, and Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserves as well as several National Wildlife Refuges and National Parks. This region, with low level topography and extensive marsh and other critical habitats, is highly susceptible to the effects of sea level change. The combined effects of sea level rise and tropical storms can have dramatic impacts on coastal communities and ecosystems, including more flooding, faster erosion, land loss, and saltwater intrusion into freshwater resources. Impacts can also reach offshore to valuable resources like oyster reefs and seagrass beds.
Considerable ongoing monitoring and research activities, particularly within three National Estuarine Research Reserve sites, provide the baseline information and parameters required for an integrative ecosystem approach to addressing sea level change. Building off of a NOS National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science-funded project, this cooperative will leverage the combined capabilities of three National Estuarine Research Reserves (NERRs), the National Ocean Service, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance, and the NOAA Gulf Regional Collaboration Team to assess the impacts of sea level rise and to develop capabilities and tools to facilitate conservation of coastal resources by local, state, and regional managers. Key products will include coupled models of hydrodynamics, sedimentation, salinity, and vegetation dynamics, as well as classified maps that delineate high and low risk areas. These tools and products are envisioned to allow for assessments of risk and planning, coastal construction guidelines, resource protection and sustainability needs, and set back guidance.