SWISLR Webinar 3 - Q2: What proportion of the NCAP has recently undergone and is currently vulnerable to significant ecosystem transitions as a result of SWISLR?
The SWISLR RCN has now hosted three webinars covering different themes of research related to saltwater intrusion and/or sea level rise. This webinar covered the question of: Where are ecosystems vulnerable to SWISLR induced transitions along the NACP and how can we predict vulnerability? You can find a recording of this seminar here.
Dr. Elliott White starts us off by talking about what we can do, and what we can’t do with remote sensing. Modeling has shown us that we are losing coastal wetlands overall (Osland et al. 2022). There are multiple threats to coastal wetlands that lead to increasing salinization of surface groundwater which in turn yields declines in coastal wetlands. There is also spatiotemporal variation in the drivers of saltwater intrusion and wetland migration/habitat loss (White and Kaplan 2017). Some wetland types are much more vulnerable, freshwater forested wetlands are the most vulnerable when talking about wetland migration. The habitat of freshwater forested wetlands is decreasing with marsh migration and saltwater intrusion which is increasing the amount of ghost forests we see along the coast. This increase in ghost forests has been an interest for scientists for a while now but is growing in public attention due to the clear visual they provide of climate change. These changes are clearly seen through remote sensing practices, and Dr. Elliott White talks about his paper showing the net loss of 13,682 km2 of loss in coastal forested wetlands along the coastal plain (White et. al. 2021). He shares his experience in learning and engaging in remote sensing methods.
Remote sensing can take less time, less money, less permitting, and less maintenance of field equipment than field science. Additionally, remote sensing provides us the ability to scale up and collect information at larger spatial scales. After Dr. Elliott White’s talk, the participants had a discussion on what information we would like to have to better understand vulnerabilities to SWISLR impacts along the NACP. Participants were invited to list their data wishes if no collection limitations were applied. About 27 unique ideas of data to include when accounting for NACP vulnerability were brought up. Participants were then asked to look at their data wishes and tell us of current data or useful indices that can be used to show the information participants want. About 16 of the 27 ideas currently had data sets, remote sensing abilities, or proxies available. The information collected is a growing database of data needs for the SWISLR RCN. You can see the board of ideas that were brough up here.