MODELING APPLICATIONS TO FORECAST SEA-LEVEL RISE AND COASTAL HABITAT MIGRATION UNDER CLIMATE CHANGE
Coastal wetlands are a critical habitat that is being affected by RSL. The impact of sea-level rise on intertidal wetlands and marsh migration upslope is still poorly understood, but field evidence indicates that tidal freshwater forests exhibit direct loss of structure, density, and species diversity from modest increases in soil salinity initiated by complex interactions of storm tides and droughts. For example, baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) is the most salt tolerant of freshwater tree species and last survivor common to degraded, monospecific stands along the marsh-estuarine ecotone for much of the southeastern U.S. coastline. The distribution and range of baldcypress corresponds with the elevation of ancient sea level (about 120 m above current sea level) dating back to highstand shoreline of the Late Cretaceous epoch nearly 65 million years ago. We will present several examples from different wetland types and various ecological modeling applications to show their utility as decision-support tools for adaptation planning and land management under different climate change scenarios.