Home » Manage Coastal Ecosystems for Climate Change
More than half of all Americans live in a county that touches the coast. The population of these counties increased by approximately 33 million people — 28 percent — between 1980 and 2003. Land trusts in these areas have always needed to balance their conservation priorities with significant population and development pressures. Now, these land trusts must also consider the implications of climate change, which threatens to constrict many coastal ecosystems between rising seas and human development.
Coastal areas are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Many of these impacts — such as sea level rise, saltwater incursion, and flooding from increased storm surge — are unique to coastal areas, estuaries and other low-lying areas.
Observed and predicted climate change impacts to coastal habitats include:
Sea level rise and increasingly strong storm surges are inevitable. Coastal areas cannot be raised above the approaching water, and shoreline hardening — constructing seawalls or other impermeable barriers — is not recommended. Instead, coastal areas may need to adapt to sea level rise and other climate change impacts by migrating inland, to higher ground.
Land trusts that manage coastal lands may wish to:
Land trusts are working in a variety of ways to build resilience. Learn more.