||Industrial Economics, Inc., Cambridge, MA.; Climate Change Science Program, Washington, DC.; Partnership for the Delaware Estuary., Wilmington, DE.
Accelerated rates of sea level rise over the next century have the potential to dramatically affect wetland habitats. Potential impacts of sea level rise include loss of habitats to open water through submergence and erosion in coastal areas, migration of wetlands where coastal elevations and private property protection efforts allow, and increased salinity in estuarine systems. Such changes in the physical environment will in turn affect the diverse ecological services provided by coastal habitats. Forecasting such changes in the physical environment and in the related ecological services will allow government agencies and other organizations to better allocate resources to adapt, potentially either preventing or mitigating these events. This report describes a new approach to climate adaptation planning that draws from the assessment of natural resource damages associated with oil spills and other episodic events. Efficient adaptation to climate change requires knowledge of the potential impacts as well as the costs and effects that would be obtained by specific actions. As such, our analytic framework couples the wetland change modeling in SLAMM (Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model) with traditional damage assessment methods via habitat equivalency analysis (HEA). Rather than estimating an inherent value to the services (e.g., natural capital approach), we estimate gains and losses in the ecological service flows provided by coastal habitats as well as the type and size of projects necessary to maintain current wetland services. Potentially, these projects can be either restoration of degraded habitats or preventative measures taken to avoid future loss.