Impacts of sea level rise on ecosystems

Project Leader: 
Research Partners: 
Robert Thieler (USGS); Nathaniel Plant (USGS); Christopher Little (Princeton University)
Project Fellows: 
Science Themes: 

A reconnaissance study distinguishes coastal areas of the northeastern U.S. (approx. Virginia to Maine) that will experience an inundation-dominated response to sea-level rise from those that will respond dynamically due to physical and bio-physical sedimentation and erosion processes. Areas that will be dominated by inundation include urban regions of intense development and/or coastal engineering, as well as bedrock coasts. Areas that will respond dynamically include beaches, unconsolidated cliffs, barrier islands, and wetlands. Distinguishing which processes are relevant to sea-level rise impacts in these areas aids prioritization of scientific research and decision support efforts.

Preliminary results indicate that the region's coastlines show large sensitivity to sea level rise and vary in their ability to respond dynamically to that sea level rise.

This project will organize and prioritize research and decision support needs of the coastal zone.  Specifically, climate predictions are uncertain and there are plausible regional differences in climate responses that should be considered, such as sea level, storminess, and precipitation. This framework will help to integrate this knowledge into the corresponding local morphological and ecological impacts.

Also see Dr. Robert Thieler's Research and Decision Support Framework to Evaluate Sea-level Rise Impacts in the Northeastern U.S.

  • R. Horton. "Tipping Points and Surprises" USGCRP Webinar on the Climate Science Special Report, August 2, 2018
  • R. Horton. "Sea Level Rise and Other Extreme Events", ACCL Law Event, NY, NY, 4/27/18
  • R. Thieler, E. Lentz, R. Horton. American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting in San Fransisco, CA, December 15, 2014.
  • R. Thieler, R. Horton. American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting in San Francisco, CA, December 15, 2014.
  • R. Horton. University of Colorado in Boulder on March 5, 2014.
  • R. Horton. UNAVCO conference in Bloomfield, CO, March 4, 2014.
  • R. Horton. Hurricane Sandy Task Force Resilience Incentive Prize Workshop, NY, NY, May 8, 2013.
  • R. Horton. USGS-NPS Strategic Sciences Group Meeting on Hurricane Sandy, NJ, March 2013.