Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
Coastal Ecosystem Services for Mid-Atlantic States

Coastal Ecosystem Services for Mid-Atlantic States

The Nicholas Institute collaborated with six eastern seaboard states (North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York) and PlanIt Forward, LLC on a U.S. Climate Alliance-funded project to map coastal habitats’ contributions to coastal protection and blue carbon storage.

The Nicholas Institute modeled:

  1. Protection service from current coastal habitats
  2. Salt marsh loss and migration with sea level rise (and implications for inland coastal habitats)
  3. Current and future carbon storage in coastal salt marsh and sea grass habitats (blue carbon).

 

 

The resulting maps show where coastal habitats protect the shoreline from hazards such as storms and erosion (Figure 1), how the extent and location of coastal habitats are projected to change due to sea level rise, and the effect of these changes on the amount of carbon stored by coastal habitats through the end of the century (Figure 2).  

Next steps for this project include analyses to assess the effect of several key uncertainties, identified during project workshops, on the habitat change and carbon flux results.  This will help to focus future research to reduce uncertainty in these estimates.  

 

Figure 1: Mid-Atlantic shoreline
Figure 1: Mid-Atlantic shoreline benefiting from significant protection by coastal habitats. Colors indicate the shoreline’s level of exposure to coastal hazards such as storms and erosion.
Figure 2: Net carbon flux by coastal habitats through the end of the century
Figure 2: Net carbon flux by coastal habitats through the end of the century. The baseline figure for each state is the projected amount of carbon sequestration by coastal habitats if they were not influenced by sea level rise. The second figure is the projected net carbon flux by coastal habitats with four feet of sea level rise. All states are projected to have decreased carbon sequestration due to sea level rise; a few states’ coastal habitats may become a net source of carbon emissions as drowned marshes release stored carbon.