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Exploring Tidal Marsh Resilience to Sea Level Rise

New study sets national tidal marsh baseline to monitor climate change impacts.

Mission Aransas NERR

Tidal Marsh Benefits

Tidal marshes provide many benefits to coastal communities, protecting people and property against storm surge and flooding, improving water quality, and creating habitat for commercially important fish and wildlife.

The NOAA-sponsored National Estuarine Research Reserve System released a national assessment of tidal marsh resilience in the face of rising sea levels. This assessment establishes a national monitoring baseline for estuarine climate change impacts.

Using data from the reserve’s system-wide monitoring program, the study was conducted at 16 sites in 13 coastal states. The results indicate that Pacific coast tidal marshes are more resistant to rising seas levels from climate change than marshes in the Atlantic. Of the areas evaluated, one marsh in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, and another in Massachusetts’ Waquoit Bay were found to be the most vulnerable.

The assessment evaluated the ability of tidal marshes to thrive as sea levels rise according to five categories of resilience—marsh elevation; change in elevation; sediment supply; tidal range; and rate of sea level rise.

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The National Estuarine Research Reserve System is a network of 28 coastal sites designated to protect and study estuarine systems. Established through the Coastal Zone Management Act, the reserves represent a partnership program between NOAA and the coastal states.


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