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An analytical tool for evaluating the impacts of sea level rise response strategies

Russell Jones (Stratus Consulting Inc., Boulder, Colorado, USA)
Elizabeth Strange (Stratus Consulting Inc., Boulder, Colorado, USA)

Management of Environmental Quality

ISSN: 1477-7835

Article publication date: 12 June 2009




Over the past century, the rate of sea level rise (SLR) has increased more than twice the average historical rate and the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that by 2100 the sea level will increase nearly two feet in many coastal areas. Property owners and municipalities typically respond to SLR by constructing seawalls and similar structures to protect shoreline property (a practice known as “armoring”). The degree to which SLR and armoring threaten key coastal habitats has not been well studied, however. This study, aims to develop an inundation model on behalf of Stratus Consulting to examine anticipated habitat changes in coastal Ocean County, New Jersey.


The model used a geographical information system to map predicted changes in coastal habitats under two alternative SLR scenarios and six different shoreline armoring scenarios. The paper then used information from local experts and the scientific literature to predict changes in the relative abundances of fish and bird species under the different scenarios.


Under all scenarios, the model predicted substantial declines in the areal extent of Spartina marshes and in the annual production of finfish and shrimp. Declines in these marsh‐dependent species would have significant impacts on commercial and recreational fisheries. The study also predicted substantial declines in bird species such as songbirds and dabbling ducks.


The results of the study can help local stakeholders and decision‐makers plan responses to SLR. Conventional armoring responses could result in substantial and irreversible losses of coastal habitats and the species dependent on these habitats.



Jones, R. and Strange, E. (2009), "An analytical tool for evaluating the impacts of sea level rise response strategies", Management of Environmental Quality, Vol. 20 No. 4, pp. 383-407.



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Copyright © 2009, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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