The broad spatio-temporal scales at which previous sea level rise research has focused fails to address the complex and multi-scalar interactions between sea level rise and the environment. Long before chronic flooding and inundation transform a landscape, ecological changes are being driven by saltwater intrusion, particularly in low-lying coastal areas that provide important ecosystem services.
We’ve built on previous work by integrating field-collected vegetation measurements with remotely-sensed vegetation metrics derived from both repeat multi-spectral satellite imagery and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) surveys. Consistent across all scales of analysis, patterns of vegetation change appear to support the dual drivers of saltwater exposure and fire.
At the landscape scale, analysis suggests that land-use activities can serve to either exacerbate or mitigate the impacts of sea level rise on vegetation change and the subsequent production of ecosystem services. Using one of the most vulnerable coastal regions to rising sea level as a case study, not only have we quantified the effects of rapid change, but we’ve provided results that can inform future management approaches aimed at maximizing the ecosystem services of coastal environments.
Paul Taillie is a 3rd-year doctoral student in the Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology program at North Carolina State University whose research aims to address biodiversity conservation problems by linking ecological relationships to management decisions. Particular topics of interest include disturbance ecology, bird conservation, and global change.
Lindsey Smart is a PhD candidate in the Center for Geospatial Analytics and the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. Lindsey employs geospatial modeling to better understand the complex dynamics of human-environment interactions in an era of global environmental change. Her dissertation research involves integrating human-decision making into land-use and land cover change modeling to explore feedbacks between climate change adaptation strategies and the continued production of ecosystem services.