Conservation Partners connecting working lands conservation from the Gulf of Mexico to the High Plains with the vision of a sustainable landscape of natural resources resilient to the threats and stressors associated with our changing world.

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Conservation Coordinator 

    Grand Bay marshes

    Salt marsh at Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve
    Toby Gray, GCPO LCC

Incorporating future change into current conservation planning: evaluating wetland migration along the Gulf of Mexico under alternative sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios

Formal Title: Incorporating future change into current conservation planning: evaluating wetland migration along the Gulf of Mexico under alternative sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios

Research Focus: climate adaptation

Conservation & Management Challenges:

In the next 100 years, accelerated sea-level rise (SLR) and urbanization will greatly modify coastal landscapes across the globe. More than one-half of coastal wetlands in the contiguous United States 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 (TSWs) have adapted to sea-level fluctuations through lateral and vertical movement on the landscape. As sea levels rise in the future, some TSWs will adapt and migrate landward in undeveloped low-lying areas where migration corridors exist; however, where naturally occurring and human-created barriers are present (such as natural bluffs and seawalls or levees, respectively), landward wetland migration will be prevented. To sustain or manage the ecosystem goods and services provided by TSWs for current and future generations, natural resource managers and planners need to understand where TSW migration is most likely to occur under a suite of region-wide SLR and urbanization scenarios.

Research Overview:

In this study, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, quantified the potential for TSW landward migration along the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast under alternative future sea-level rise and urbanization scenarios. The analyses focused exclusively on TSWs (that is, mangrove forests, salt marshes, and salt flats), and researchers combined these diverse TSW ecosystems into a single grouping, “tidal saline wetland.” 


Partners: US Geological Survey; Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative; South Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative; Peninsular Florida Landscape Conservation Cooperative; US Geological Survey - National Wetlands Research Center


Collectively, the approach and findings can provide useful information for scientists and environmental planners working to develop future-focused adaptation strategies for conserving coastal landscapes and TSW ecosystem goods and services. The primary product of this work is a public dataset that identifies locations where TSW landward migration is expected to occur under alternative future SLR and urbanization scenarios. In addition to identifying areas where TSW landward migration is possible because of the absence of barriers, these data also identify locations where TSW landward migration could be prevented by barriers associated with current urbanization, future urbanization, and levees. The dataset includes five time steps (2030, 2040, 2050, 2060, and 2100), five SLR scenarios (0.5-, 1.0-, 1.2-, 1.5-, and 2.0-meter [m] SLR by 2100), and three uncertainty categories, which equates to 102 total files because of the presentation of the data in two formats, as well as the various time step/scenario-uncertainty combinations.

Tidal Saline Wetland Migration Datasets from this study are available on the GCP Conservation Planning Atlas


This 2-year project was initiated in 2013 and completed in 2015.  The final report is available here:


Principal Investigator:  Dr. Mike Osland, Research Ecologist – US Geological Survey, National Wetlands Research Center; 337-266-8664;;; Lafayette, LA.

Landscape Conservation Cooperative Point-of-Contact: Bill Bartush, Gulf Coast Prairie LCC, National Wetlands Research Center, 700 Cajundome Boulevard, Lafayette, LA 70506  

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