Creating a Gulf Coast Community Handbook for Restoration and Adaptation
Through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Ready Estuaries Program, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) and Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP) are working together to create a handbook to identify strategies that incorporate resilience to climate change as a component of habitat restoration and protection.
The Tampa Bay National and Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries study areas, two of the National Estuary Programs (NEPs), are located on opposite sides of the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and Texas, respectively. The Tampa Bay Estuary is located in Florida’s second largest metropolitan area, spans about 400 square miles, and is the state’s largest open-water estuary. The Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries encompasses three of Texas’s seven major estuaries – Aransas Bay, Corpus Christi Bay, and Upper Laguna Madre. Both areas are sites of ecological and biological diversity, and depend on port traffic, fisheries, and tourism and recreation for their economies. Population pressures, past environmental degradation, and future climate change impacts are of great concern to resource managers in these regions.
Habitat restoration and protection are top management priorities for both programs. In Tampa Bay, 4,700 acres of bay habitats have been restored in last 25 years with another 5,000 acres expected to be restored in next 10 years. In the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries area, 5,400 acres of land around the Nueces River Delta have been purchased for conservation and research purposes, and approximately 15,000 acres is part of an ongoing restoration effort to restore water circulation for the Matagorda Island marshes.
Many of the areas that are being protected and restored by these two NEPs not only provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife, but also serve as natural buffers against storm surges and sea level rise. Rising sea levels may exacerbate other problems, including loss of existing oyster bars, marshes, and mangroves, and associated decline of species associated with these habitats. In response, TBEP and CBBEP are working together to not only pinpoint the ecological and economic vulnerabilities of their coastal wetlands, but also to develop a guidebook that can act as a ‘toolkit’ of options for the incorporation of climate change impacts into habitat restoration activities in the region.
In 2009, TBEP and CBBEP were granted money through the Climate Ready Estuaries Program to develop a Gulf Coast Community Handbook. The handbook is meant to assist Gulf Coast communities in incorporating climate change into habitat protection and restoration activities by providing specific adaptation recommendations and strategies. This project is in the planning stage and is expected to include strategies such as using buffer zones in future restoration efforts so that marsh and mangrove habitats have room to naturally migrate landward as sea levels rise.
Outcomes and Conclusions
The guidebook will include information from other TBEP and CBBEP research projects and will be a ‘toolkit’ of adaptation options for habitat restoration projects in the face of climate change and sea level rise.
Gregg, R. M. (2010). Creating a Gulf Coast Community Handbook for Restoration and Adaptation [Case study on a project of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: http://www.cakex.org/case-studies/creating-gulf-coast-community-handbook... (Last updated March 2010)