In a new report out on USGS publications, sea-level rise in response to climate change is examined for the tidal marshes of California. Tidal marshes are important coastal habitats that link marine, freshwater, and terrestrial habitats. They also provide a host of ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, improved water quality, and coastal protection from storms. Sea-level rise will impact these coastal habitat, but how so over the next 50 to 100 years?
This SW CSC project, led by Karen Thorne of USGS and Glen MacDonald of UCLA, looked at the projected effects of three different scenarios (low, mid, and high sea-level rise) by compiling physical and biological data. The goal of the project was to provide results to support coastal management and conservation efforts.
Study results found that under low sea-level rise, all study sites remained vegetated. However, under mid sea-level rise, most sites increased low marsh habitat at the expense of middle and high marsh habitat. Additionally, two particularly sensitive sites - Morro Bay and Tijuana River Estuary - became mudflats. Under high sea-level rise most sites were projected to lose vegetated habitat, eventually converting to intertidal mudflats.
California marshes are vulnerable to major habitat shifts under mid and high sea-level rise especially in the latter part of the century. The loss of vegetated tidal marshes means the loss of the host of ecosystem services provided by these habitats.