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Rising seas and sinking coastal marshes: Implications to Atlantic waterbirds

June 9, 2009

Along the mid-Atlantic U.S. coast, relative sea level rise (RSLR) is higher than the global average of 1.5-2.0 mm/yr, ranging from about 2.5 in parts of Virginia and Delaware to about 4.0 in New Jersey (Atlantic City and Sandy Hook) and near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia. Very few data exist on marsh elevation changes, but information from some areas in Virginia, New Jersey and New York suggest that marsh islands are not 'keeping pace' with this RSLR. We began a study in 1999 that addresses changes in sea level and marsh elevation at sites from Cape Cod to s. Virginia known to be important areas for migratory waterbirds, including waterfowl, shorebirds, wading birds, and seabirds. Marsh monitoring sites have been established and data on microhabitat use by birds during all 4 seasons is being collected at these sites. Species expected to be most vulnerable to RSLR in these marshes are breeding species such as Laughing Gulls, Common, Gull-billed and Forster's terns, Clapper Rails, and American Black Ducks. Most of these species are of special concern at state, regional, or national levels. We show how important this region to these species from a flyway perspective, with> 70% of all Atlantic coast Laughing Gulls and Forster's Terns nesting from New Jersey to Virginia.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2000
Title Rising seas and sinking coastal marshes: Implications to Atlantic waterbirds
DOI
Authors R.M. Erwin, D.J. Prosser, G. Sanders
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 5211283
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Patuxent Wildlife Research Center