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Georgia Climate Project: Coastal biodiversity, economy and ecosystems

This week’s question from the Georgia Climate Project’s Roadmap discusses how climate change will affect Georgia’s coasts. The coasts are an important economic resource for Georgia, including the effects of tourism, fishing, and the value of biodiversity in coastal ecosystems. They are increasingly faced with problems from sea level rise as well as changes to the riverine systems that feed into coastal marshes including more frequent floods and droughts.

12. How will climate change affect coastal biodiversity, ecosystems, economy, and ecosystem services?

Why this question is important:┬áChanges to coastal productivity, species diversity, and ecosystem function will affect human communities that depend economically on coastal resources (Barbier et al. 2011). Georgia’s Atlantic coast has barrier islands, estuaries, and some of the most expansive marshes in the USA. These areas are facing sea level rise and an increase in coastal flooding from extreme weather events such as Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. While there are projections available for sea level rise (Parris et al. 2012), it is not specifically known how various aspects of environmental change will alter Georgia’s coastal ecosystems, their biodiversity, and the ecosystem services they deliver. Identifying climate-related impacts along the Georgia coast is especially important as we evaluate adaptation options designed to protect coastal communities. For example, coastal armoring can affect species assemblages, connectivity, and other functions of intertidal habitats (Dugan et al. 2017).