Maryland, a state many consider synonymous with coastal life and livelihoods, has already experienced the loss of several islands and vast acreage of shoreline due to erosion and sea level rise. Maryland’s coastal wetlands are particularly vulnerable to projected climate changes and are already experiencing threats from storms, inundation and sea level rise which is occurring at nearly twice the global average. Accordingly, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with the Maryland Department of the Environment, has sought to implement wetland restoration and conservation programs to protect the state’s remaining coastal wetlands from climate change.
Maryland used the Sea Level Affecting Marshes Model to factor in sea level rise projections and gain a comprehensive look at coastal wetland areas throughout the state. This analysis is allowing the state to better identify the wetland migration areas under future sea level rise conditions and identify high priority wetland areas for protection. Data on wetland characteristics including size, species composition and ecosystem connectivity has inform adaptation options by helping identify and prioritize land necessary for preserving current and future ecosystem diversity and functionality. The analysis enabled Department of Natural Resources officials to provide information on high priority and vulnerable areas for conservation purposes to land managers, conservation planners and the public. Consequently, this analysis provides land use planners and conservation organizations valuable information to help preserve areas for wetland migration and adapt to higher sea levels.