Climate Change Adaptation for Coastal National Wildlife Refuges

Science Center Objects

National Wildlife Refuges provide habitat for important fish and wildlife species and services that benefit coastal communities, like storm-surge protection. USGS scientists are helping coastal refuges plan for and adapt to sea-level rise. 

Boneyard Beach, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

Boneyard Beach, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

(Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain.)

The Science Issue and Relevance: National Wildlife Refuges along the east coast of the U.S. protect critical habitats for a host of fish and wildlife species, but also contribute to essential services that benefit coastal communities. Storm-surge protection, increased water quality, nurseries for commercially important shellfish, and recreational opportunities are only some of the societal benefits contributed by coastal wildlife refuges. Faced with sea-level rise and climate change, the ability of coastal refuges to protect the nation’s natural resources and provide ecosystem services is in jeopardy.

 

Methodology for Addressing the Issue: Our project develops a management and research collaboration with coastal refuges to assist in planning for and adapting to sea-level rise. This collaboration integrates the expertise of specialists in global-change science, coastal dynamics, resource economics, and decision science to address management policies that will benefit both human and wildlife interests into the future. We use methods based on modern portfolio theory and robust optimization for identifying potential solutions while considering the risk attitude of managers and uncertainty associated with climate change and urbanization. The area of focus is Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina.

 

Future Steps: We will focus on the development of decision support tools that allow managers to examine trade-offs in protecting current coasts through adaptation versus acquisition of new lands.

Bulls Island, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

Bulls Island, Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge

(Credit: US Fish and Wildlife Service. Public domain.)

 

Related Project(s) or Products:

Eaton, M.J., Yurek, S., Martin, J., Johnson, F.A., Charkhgard, H., and Kwon, C., Haider, Z. (2018) Conservation reserve design under climate uncertainty: risk and reward tradeoffs. International Statistical Ecology Conference, University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK.

Johnson, F.A., Eaton, M., Martin, J. (2017) Navigating the science-policy boundary in natural resource management Greater Everglades Ecosystem Restoration, Coral Springs, Florida, USA.

Johnson, F.A., Eaton, M.J., McMahon, G., Nilius, R., Case, D., Martin, J., Taylor, L.O. (2015). Global change and conservation triage on National Wildlife Refuges. Ecology and Society, 20, article 14.

Johnson, F.A., Eaton, M.J., Mikels-Carrasco, J., Case, D.J., Martin, J., Stith, B., Yurek, S., Udell, B., Villegas, L., Taylor, L., Haider, Z., Charkhgard, H., and Kwon, C. Cape Romain partnership for coastal conservation. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report in review

Nilius, R., Dawsey, S., Eaton, M., Martin, J. (coach), Romañach , S., Baird, S., Bryant, M., Case, D., Johnson, F., McMahon, G., Pau, N., Pienaar, E., Ratnaswamy, M., Seibert, S., Wingrove, P., Wood, N. (2014) Maximizing the social and ecological value of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina as the effects of global change processes increase. Report from a USFWS National Conservation Training Center SDM workshop, Shepherdstown, WV. 2-6 June, 2014