Collaborative study offers insight on protecting valuable coastal resources based on “tipping points” for indicator species

A new paper published by a team of scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ocean & Coastal Management synthesizes existing information on ecological thresholds related to environmental changes -- including sea-level rise and coastal storms -- for 45 species of coastal fish, wildlife, and plants selected because of their ecological, economic and cultural importance.

The synthesis responds to a need identified by stakeholders from six LCCs, three CSCs, state wildlife agencies and other partners from across the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions for information on thresholds that can help managers act strategically despite uncertain future conditions.

Highlights:

  • A new paper synthesizes existing information on known ecological thresholds for 45 species that serve as indicators of functional coastal ecosystems in the face of environmental changes, including sea-level rise and coastal storms, to provide information that can help managers take action to protect these systems.
  • Some ecological threshold data currently exist for a bit more than half of the focal species examined in the study, offering valuable guidance to inform where and how managers can take meaningful conservation action -- even in the face of uncertainty.
  • Intact and functional coastal ecosystems sustain wildlife species like the Eastern oyster, piping plover, and American black duck, and provide numerous benefits to communities, like protection from storm surge, carbon sequestration, and as nursery areas for commercially important groundfish.
  • The study also identifies areas where we need more information to make the best decisions possible in the face of change and uncertainty.
  • The aim of this research is to guide and inform management and improve our ability to predict species and habitat changes over time.

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