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Coastal wetland resilience, accelerated sea-level rise, and the importance of timescale

March 25, 2021

Recent studies have produced conflicting results as to whether coastal wetlands can keep up with present‐day and future sea‐level rise. The stratigraphic record shows that threshold rates for coastal wetland submergence or retreat are lower than what instrumental records suggest, with wetland extent that shrinks considerably under high rates of sea‐level rise. These apparent conflicts can be reconciled by recognizing that many coastal wetlands still possess sufficient elevation capital to cope with sea‐level rise, and that processes like sediment compaction, ponding, and wave erosion require multidecadal or longer timescales to drive wetland loss that is in many cases inevitable.