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Individual Highlight

Keeping Pace with Sea-level Rise: Insights for Oregon Estuaries

Photo of Mapped elevations that can inform predictions of sea-level rise at the Salmon River Estuary, Oregon. Rebecca Flitcroft, USDA Forest ServiceMapped elevations that can inform predictions of sea-level rise at the Salmon River Estuary, Oregon. Rebecca Flitcroft, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Scientists mapped the margin of current mean high tide, and contour intervals associated with different potential increases. They found that some estuaries had increased potential for complex edge habitat for rearing juvenile salmonids, whereas others showed a marked decrease.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Flitcroft, Rebecca 
Research Location : Oregon
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 670

Summary

Coastal areas are among the most dynamic, productive environments in the world, but they have been extensively developed for human uses. Future conditions in coastal riverscapes (the mosaic of aquatic and riparian habitats from the headwaters along the river to the estuary) are inherently complex. Current climate projections predict sea-level rise; alterations in type, timing, and intensity of precipitation; and increases in water temperature. Diverse estuarine habitats are used for varying lengths of time by juvenile salmonids of different life histories. Sea-level rise may flood currently productive salt-marsh habitats, with limited potential for these habitats to shift upstream or into floodplains due to human development. Land managers and citizens lack the spatially explicit data needed to incorporate effects of climate change and sea-level rise into planning for habitat improvement projects in estuarine areas. Scientists developed simple models using Light Detecton and Ranging, or LiDAR, to characterize the geomorphologies of multiple Oregon estuaries. They mapped the margin of current mean high tide, and contour intervals associated with different potential increases. They found that some estuaries had increased potential for complex edge habitat for rearing juveniles, whereas others showed a marked decrease. This research can be used to integrate current science into land use management decisions that have broad implications for the future. The scientists plan to work with local watershed groups and the state of Oregon to expand the use of mapping tools to enhance planning for estuarine habitat restoration, recovery, and protection.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Coos Watershed Association
  • Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Oregon State University
  • South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve