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Predicting Impacts of tropical cyclones and sea-Level rise on beach mouse habitat

January 1, 2014

Alabama beach mouse (ABM) (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates) is an important component of the coastal dune ecosystem along the Gulf of Mexico. Due to habitat loss and degradation, ABM is federally listed as an endangered species. In this study, we examined the impacts of storm surge and wind waves, which are induced by hurricanes and sea-level rise (SLR), on the ABM habitat on Fort Morgan Peninsula, Alabama, using advanced storm surge and wind wave models and spatial analysis tools in geographic information systems (GIS). Statistical analyses of the long-term historical data enabled us to predict the extreme values of winds, wind waves, and water levels in the study area at different return periods. We developed a series of nested domains for both wave and surge modeling and validated the models using field observations of surge hydrographs and high watermarks of Hurricane Ivan (2004). We then developed wave atlases and flood maps corresponding to the extreme wind, surge and waves without SLR and with a 0.5 m of SLR by coupling the wave and surge prediction models. The flood maps were then merged with a map of ABM habitat to determine the extent and location of habitat impacted by the 100-year storm with and without SLR. Simulation results indicate that more than 82% of ABM habitat would be inundated in such an extreme storm event, especially under SLR, making ABM populations more vulnerable to future storm damage. These results have aided biologists, community planners, and other stakeholders in the identification, restoration and protection of key beach mouse habitat in Alabama. Methods outlined in this paper could also be used to assist in the conservation and recovery of imperiled coastal species elsewhere.

Publication Year 2014
Title Predicting Impacts of tropical cyclones and sea-Level rise on beach mouse habitat
DOI 10.2112/SI68-002.1
Authors Q. Chen, Hongqing Wang, Lixia Wang, Robert Tawes, Drew Rollman
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Coastal Research
Index ID 70117792
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wetlands Research Center