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Incorporating future change into current conservation planning: Evaluating tidal saline wetland migration along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast under alternative sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios

November 2, 2015

In this study, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, quantified the potential for landward migration of tidal saline wetlands along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast under alternative future sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios. Our analyses focused exclusively on tidal saline wetlands (that is, mangrove forests, salt marshes, and salt flats), and we combined these diverse tidal saline wetland ecosystems into a single grouping, “tidal saline wetland.” Collectively, our approach and findings can provide useful information for scientists and environmental planners working to develop future-focused adaptation strategies for conserving coastal landscapes and the ecosystem goods and services provided by tidal saline wetlands. The primary product of this work is a public dataset that identifies locations where landward migration of tidal saline wetlands is expected to occur under alternative future sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios. In addition to identifying areas where landward migration of tidal saline wetlands is possible because of the absence of barriers, these data also identify locations where landward migration of these wetlands could be prevented by barriers associated with current urbanization, future urbanization, and levees.