In the coming century, accelerated sea-level rise (SLR) and urbanization will greatly modify coastal landscapes across the globe. More than half of coastal wetlands in the contiguous U.S. are located along the Gulf of Mexico coast. In addition to supporting fish and wildlife habitat, these highly-productive wetlands support many ecosystem goods and services, including storm protection, recreation, clean water, and carbon sequestration. Historically, tidal saline wetlands have adapted to sea-level fluctuations via lateral and vertical movement on the landscape. As sea levels rise in the future, some tidal saline wetlands will adapt and migrate landward in undeveloped low-lying areas where migration corridors exist. However, where natural and anthropogenic barriers are present (such as, natural bluffs and seawalls or levees, respectively), landward wetland migration will be prevented. In order to strategically and proactively target current conservation planning actions to ensure that future generations have access to the ecosystem goods and services provided by Gulf of Mexico tidal saline wetlands, natural resource managers and planners need to understand where tidal saline wetland migration is most likely to occur under a suite of region-wide SLR and urbanization scenarios.
In this study, we quantified the potential for tidal saline wetland landward migration along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast under alternative future SLR scenarios and urban growth projections. Our analyses focus exclusively on tidal saline wetlands (that is, mangrove forests, salt marshes, and salt flats), and we combine these diverse tidal saline wetland ecosystems into a single grouping entitled “tidal saline wetland.” Collectively, our approach and findings provide useful information for scientists and environmental planners working to develop future-focused adaptation strategies for conserving coastal landscapes and tidal saline wetland ecosystem goods and services. The primary product of this work is a public dataset that identifies locations where tidal saline wetland landward migration is expected to occur under alternative future sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios. In addition to identifying areas where landward wetland migration is possible due to the absence of barriers, these data also identify locations where landward wetland migration could be prevented by barriers associated with current urbanization, future urbanization, and levees.
View the recorded Tidal Saline Wetland Migration webinar
Where to access the data and the report?
(1) For viewing the data in a map viewer, follow this link to the LCC Conservation Planning Atlas Gallery:
(2) For downloading the data, follow this link to the Science Base site:
(3) For the Data Series html report, follow this link:
Presenters: Michael Osland, Nicholas Enwright, and Kereen Griffith
Michael Osland, Nicholas Enwright, and Kereen Griffith are scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center in Lafayette, LA.