2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 124-4
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM


PEEK, Katie1, FOWLER, Alicia1, YOUNG, Robert S.1, BEAVERS, Rebecca L.2, HAWKINS-HOFFMAN, Cat3 and DIETHORN, Brian4, (1)Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723, (2)Geologic Resources Division, U.S. National Park Service, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science, 12795 West Alameda Parkway, Denver, CO 80225, (3)National Park Service, Natural Resource Stewardship and Science, Fort Collins, CO 80525, (4)National Park Service, Park Facilities Management Division, Lakewood, CO 80228

Over the next century, warming global temperatures will present many challenges for the National Park Service (NPS) and public land managers. Rising sea level will be one of the most obvious and challenging impacts of this warming. Even a minor increase in sea level will have significant effects on coastal hazards, natural resources and assets within national parks. To begin addressing these issues, the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines (PSDS) at Western Carolina University (WCU) has partnered with NPS to assess of the vulnerability of infrastructure within 40 coastal national parks. This collaborative project has focused on identifying NPS-owned assets that may be threatened by a future 1 m rise in sea level, which can be expected to occur in the next 100 to 150 years.

This project utilized an existing NPS database (Facilities Management Software System) containing a comprehensive list of assets within each unit. There are over 10,000 assets within these 40 coastal units. A variety of methods were used to assess the vulnerability to sea level rise of each asset including the acquisition of existing digital datasets, collaboration with park staff, and field visits. Assets were simply characterized as having a relatively high exposure to sea level rise or relatively low. These data will be used to provide a “big picture” view of what is at risk in coastal parks in terms of the types of assets (civil war forts to hiking trails) and the overall replacement value of the assets at risk.

Results from this group of 40 coastal parks indicate that over 40% of the assets are highly exposed, with a cumulative value of over $40 billion. The majority of the high-risk assets were from the southeastern, low-lying barrier island parks; however, the northeast region units had over one-third of assets highly exposed, many of which are historically and culturally significant to NPS. A detailed case study of Gateway National Recreation Area and Hurricane Sandy indicate that many assets initially designated as “limited exposure” were damaged or destroyed Sandy. So the assesments in this study are probably conservative.The next step of this project is to include an additional 30 units into these analyses. This is currently underway and includes many units in the National Capital and Northeast Regions of the U.S.