Climate Sensitivity of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System

U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2013/20130807_nerrclimatereport.html

…Almost 40 percent of all Americans, or about 123 million people, live in the counties directly along the shoreline and depend on these resources for food, jobs, storm protection, and recreation. Approximately 50 percent, or $6.6 trillion, of the nation’s gross domestic product comes from coastal watershed counties which support more than 51 million jobs.

Researchers determined the extent of relative climate sensitivity in the reserves by looking at five factors: social, biophysical, and ecological sensitivity, and exposure to temperature change and sea level rise.

Key Findings

  • Reserve ecological resilience was examined and the key underlying estuarine stressors were found to be toxic pollutants, storm impacts, invasive species, habitat fragmentation, sedimentation and shoreline erosion. The most frequently identified factors contributing to these stressors included residential development, land use, population growth, wastewater treatment and sea level rise.
  • High social sensitivity to climate change was indicated where there is higher employment within natural resource-dependent industries, lower per capita income and median home values, higher percentages of minority populations, and a higher percentage of individuals lacking a high school education.
  • Social sensitivity to climate change was generally highest in the southern portions of the East and West coasts of the U.S., the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska.

Biophysical sensitivity summarizes each reserve’s relationship between annual spring atmospheric temperature and rainfall data and water quality factors such as water temperature, dissolved oxygen and pH.

Temperature change exposure risk was greatest for reserves located in the Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast regions of the country, while reserves in the Gulf of Mexico, parts of the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, California, and Oregon showed the greatest risk of sea level rise exposure…

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