Coastal Resilience: Visualizing Climate Change Impacts and Coastal Hazards and Implementing Solutions in Long Island Sound

Created: 12/18/2010 - Updated: 2/08/2018

Summary

Long Island Sound, bordered by New York and Connecticut, is one of the most densely populated coastal areas in the world with an estimated eight million people within its coastal watersheds. Sea level rise, intense coastal storms, and flooding threaten residents and the built and natural environments of these coastal communities. Despite the tremendous investment over three centuries in infrastructure, housing, and other structures, there remain several viable estuaries and river systems of national importance. With climatic change, a new coastal paradigm that balances human responses with sustainability of natural resources is required.  In collaboration with partners, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) developed the Coastal Resilience program that integrates the ecological, social, and economic drivers into a web-based decision support tool to empower the implementation of long-term adaptation solutions to coastal climate change impacts.

Background

Despite a growing awareness of global climate change and sea level rise, federal, state and local land use planners, natural resource managers, and other decision makers in New York and Connecticut lack the tools to visualize future scenarios and identify favorable alternatives. As a consequence, these managers are unable to comprehensively accommodate sea level rise and coastal hazard risks into their decision-making processes to reduce risk and increase the resilience of human and natural communities.  This multi-objective, ecosystem based adaptation approach is designed to couple a decision-support tool with sustained engagement with federal, state, and local stakeholders through regional workshops and municipal pilot projects.  One of the areas where there are real opportunities for identifying win-win solutions for human and natural communities is in building approaches that combine hazard mitiga­tion and biodiversity conservation in coastal zones.

The Coastal Resilience program’s website provides:

  • an interactive web mapping tool to empower decision makers to visualize different inundation and/or flooding scenarios;
  • information to analyze the potential ecological, social and economic impacts of each scenario at a local, state and regional scale; and
  • recommendations for adaptation options that minimize losses to natural and human communities through better decision support; and
  • stakeholder blog and information nexus to facilitate community engagement and sharing.

Implementation

Partnerships have greatly facilitated the success of the Coastal Resilience program. Along with TNC, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies/Columbia University, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Coastal Services Center, Association of State Floodplain Managers, and Pace University’s Land Use Law Center have been directly involved in the program. The current scope of the project covers the coast of New York and Connecticut including two estuaries of national importance - Long Island Sound and the Peconic Estuary.

TNC engaged stakeholders from the very beginning of this program’s development in 2007. Through an initial series of workshops and interviews, TNC introduced approximately 100 local planners and managers to the issue and solicited feedback on relevant data sources and ways to tailor the decision-support tool at different scales. During subsequent workshops, review of inundation and/or flooding scenarios were provided along with potential remedies in the form of regulatory, legal, and policy approaches. Using feedback from these sessions, TNC has created the Coastal Resilience website to provide communities with easy access to information for decisions regarding planning, zoning, acquisition, and permitting in the coastal zone. The site’s Future Scenario Maps and related information allow for detailed quantification of ecological, social and economic impacts, costs, and management considerations.  In addition, the site will provide natural resource migration models that forecast the likely location of coastal habitats (“Advancement Zones”) under various land use policy reform scenarios. Once scenarios are mapped and costs are analyzed, the website also offers four possible management approaches and locally relevant examples for decision makers:

  1. Voluntary Land Acquisition
  2. Post-Storm Redevelopment Planning/Action
  3. Implement-Pass-Amend Key Laws
  4. Natural Habitat Migration/Restoration/Ecosystem-based Adaptation

Outcomes and Conclusions

The Coastal Resilience website has been developed with and favorably received by municipalities and regional planning authorities across the area, coupled with growing interest from federal and state regulatory and management agencies. TNC is currently working closely with local governments to develop long-term, meaningful pilots that incorporate ecosystem-based adaptation information and approaches provided by Coastal Resilience into local action plans. TNC is in the process of developing sections for the Gulf of Mexico, Florida Keys, U.S. Virgin Islands, and Southern California.

Status

Information gathered through interviews. Last updated September 2011.

Citation

Gregg, R. M. (2010). Coastal Resilience: Visualizing Climate Change Impacts and Coastal Hazards and Implementing Solutions in Long Island Sound [Case study on a project of The Nature Conservancy - Connecticut]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/coastal-resilience-visualizing-climate... (Last updated September 2011)

Project Contacts

Email Address: 
Position Title: 
Director of Science

The Nature Conservancy is the leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Connecticut Chapter works to preserve impoartant natural places in the region.

The Nature Conservancy Long Island is responsible in protection of Long Island's tidal wetlands. To better protect this important habitat, The Nature Conservancy has began a re-inventory of the tidal wetlands to provide location and condition of their status to take steps in restoring and protecting these valuable habitats.

Keywords

Scale of Project: 
Community / Local
State / Provincial
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Development (socioeconomic)
Land Use Planning
Transportation / Infrastructure
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Air temperature
Biodiversity
Erosion
Flooding
Habitat extent
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Water temperature
Climate Type: 
Temperate
Timeframe: 
Ongoing
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Design or reform institutions
Increase organizational capacity
Coordinate planning and management
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Create/enhance resources and tools
Governance and Policy
Effort Stage: 
In progress