Office of Research and Development Publications

A Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for Management of Coastal Marsh Systems


Wigand, C., T. Ardito, C. Chaffee, W. Ferguson, S. Paton, K. Raposa, C. Vandemoer, AND E. Watson. A Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for Management of Coastal Marsh Systems. Estuaries and Coasts. Estuarine Research Federation, Port Republic, MD, 40(3):682-693, (2017).


This manuscript provides guidance for restoration efforts in face of increased flooding and frequency of storms in the Northeast, US. Natural resource managers are challenged with developing appropriate methods to identify coastal vulnerabilities and appropriate restoration actions to build coastal resiliency. Possible restoration actions to build coastal resiliency include thin layer placement of dredged materials to build coastal elevation and creation of a living shoreline to promote plant growth and sedimentation. Managers cooperate with community members, state, federal and other stakeholders to develop targets and goals for restoration and monitoring efforts.


Sea level rise is causing shoreline erosion, increased coastal flooding, and marsh vulnerability to the impact of storms. Coastal marshes provide flood abatement, carbon and nutrient sequestration, water quality maintenance, and habitat for fish, shellfish, and wildlife, including species of concern, such as the saltmarsh sparrow (Ammodramus caudacutus). We present a climate change adaptation strategy (CCAS) adopted by scientific, management, and policy stakeholders for managing coastal marshes and enhancing system resiliency. A common adaptive management approach previously used for restoration projects was modified to identify climate-related vulnerabilities and plan climate change adaptive actions. As an example of implementation of the CCAS, we describe the stakeholder plans and management actions the US Fish and Wildlife Service and partners developed to build coastal resiliency in the Narrow River Estuary, RI, in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. When possible, an experimental BACI (before-after, control-impact) design, described as pre- and post-sampling at the impact site and one or more control sites, was incorporated into the climate change adaptation and implementation plans. Specific climate change adaptive actions and monitoring plans are described and include shoreline stabilization, restoring marsh drainage, increasing marsh elevation, and enabling upland marsh migration. The CCAS provides a framework and methodology for successfully managing coastal systems faced with deteriorating habitat, accelerated sea level rise, and changes in precipitation and storm patterns.

Record Details:

Product Published Date: 05/01/2017
Record Last Revised: 05/16/2018
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 335861