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A new plan titled, “Marsh Forward” outlines what it would take to protect a million-acre salt marsh ecosystem in the South Atlantic region of the U.S. USGS coastal science was used to contribute to the immense body of knowledge used to inform the plan’s coastal adaptation strategies.

a map shows a coastal area turning from green to blue (indicating water) across a future sea-level rise projection to 2100
Scientists at the USGS St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center use models to project marsh response to sea-level rise. This example from Grand Bay, in Alabama and Mississippi, predicts that marshes will lose productivity under a high sea-level rise scenario, and attempt to migrate upland or convert to open water. 

These modeling capabilities can be applied to other salt marsh ecosystems such as those along the South Atlantic U.S. coast to predict marsh vulnerability to sea-level rise.

Explore modeling efforts for Grand Bay in this geonarrative.


The South Atlantic region of the U.S. (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida) harbors approximately one million acres of salt marshes that benefit wildlife, communities, the economy and national defense. Partners working to sustain this valuable resource in the face of persistent threats require robust scientific knowledge to make decisions on how to effectively enhance long-term salt marsh abundance, health, and resilience. A regional effort and non-regulatory partnership, the South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative (SASMI) brings together leaders from the Southeast Regional Partnership for Planning and Sustainability (SERPPAS) and other local, state, and federal partners, communities, and nongovernmental organizations to determine the greatest threats to the salt marsh ecosystem, and opportunities to ensure its survival in the four-state region.


USGS conducts science to track how marsh shorelines are changing over time, study how sediment moves between marshes and other coastal environments, and predict how marshes respond to rising water levels. This science can be used to better understand and address how these ecosystems are changing due to short-term events (e.g., storms) as well as model long-term processes like sea-level rise over large geographic scales. Coastal scientists at USGS are also initiating a new project in the South Atlantic region to assess marsh vulnerability, predict marsh productivity under future scenarios of sea level rise, and assess the ability of natural and nature-based features to mitigate marsh loss under sea level rise.

Learn more about USGS Estuarine and Marsh Geology research.

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