Filter by Type

Incorporating Climate Change Response into a General Management Plan, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia

Trish Kicklighter
Created: 11/26/2015 - Updated: 5/09/2019

This image has been released into the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the National Park Service. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Summary

Assateague Island National Seashore is developing a general management plan that addresses projected climate change impacts on resources and infrastructure. The plan must include a range of management tools for improving resource resiliency and repairing facilities that will be impacted by climate change and storms. 

Background

The park’s current plan, which was signed in 1982, did not consider the impacts of a changing climate on the island’s dynamic geomorphology. Park partners include local governments, area residents, and two other agencies (US Fish and Wildlife Service [USFWS] and Maryland State Park) that manage portions of the island. USFWS does not have strong policy statements concerning beach nourishment and shoreline armoring, increasing the difficulty of countering local interests in beach nourishment. Local government and residents in Chincoteague, Virginia, prefer current management practices to new policies that consider climate change, which is viewed skeptically despite the high vulnerability of this area to impacts from increased storm intensity. The state park system has not included climate change in its planning efforts, and current practices are impeding barrier island migration processes.

The park would benefit from a comprehensive plan directing its response to the expected landscape-level changes and the associated impacts to visitor services and resources. Outstanding questions include the following:
  • How can the park improve sustainability of facilities?
  • Should facilities be relocated or replaced as the island migrates westward and following storm damage?
  • How should the park respond to a loss of vehicular access to the island?
  • How should the park respond to an island breach?
  • What is the best way to balance wilderness with off-road vehicle use?
  • In what ways can the park cooperate with partner land management agencies? 

Implementation

The park has improved its understanding of climate change and park impacts through several efforts. By participating in the National Park Service Climate Change Scenario Planning process, the park was able to explore a range of possible future scenarios under different combinations of social and natural forces and to better identify the major drivers of change and the major issues that were common to all scenarios. The park also scaled the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s sea level rise projections to a 30-year time span in order to identify an assumed local rate of sea level rise that is relevant both to the scope of the general management plan and to park neighbors and audiences.

Ongoing GPS and LiDAR monitoring of the island’s shoreline and topography has allowed trend analysis of coastal change. Several new research and modeling projects will provide additional information over the next several years. The park is working with the US Geological Survey to develop a model for the projected impacts of sea level rise and increased storm intensity on the island’s shoreline, and the predicted availability and distribution of shorebird nesting habitat under various sea level rise scenarios. The park and the US Geological Survey are also partnering to monitor salt marsh height, hydrology, and salt water intrusion on the shallow freshwater system. 

Outcomes and Conclusions

The actions and alternatives described in the general management plan all consider and integrate the likely impacts of climate change identified through these scenario planning and research efforts. A consistent climate change message provides the base of a new educational outreach effort that targets park neighbors, an effort that also intends to garner support for the direction of the general management plan. The park has also communicated regularly with the adjacent Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, which has been developing its comprehensive conservation plan, the USFWS equivalent long-term planning effort with a similar public process. The results of the scenario planning, and the park’s climate change message, have been shared with all employees. Meetings with land management partners have included presentations of the park’s findings and concerns. The park has also held public meetings to discuss climate change and the projected impacts. The draft plan is expected to be released soon; this project is ongoing. 

-------

This case study is part of the 2015 National Park Service report, Coastal Adaptation Strategies: Case Studies. These case studies initially were developed by park managers as part of a NPS-led coastal adaptation training in May 2012. The case studies follow the format created for EcoAdapt’s Climate Adaptation Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) database, including a list of adaptation strategies. All case studies were updated and modified in September 2013 and March 2015 in response to a growing number of requests from coastal parks and other coastal management agencies looking for examples of climate change adaptation strategies for natural and cultural resources and assets along their ocean, lacustrine, and riverine coasts.

Status

Submitted by user and reviewed by CAKE Content Editor November 2015

Citation

Kicklighter, T. (2015). Incorporating Climate Change Response into a General Management Plan, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia [Case study on a project of the Assateague Island National Seashore]. Excerpted from Schupp, C.A., R.L. Beavers, and M.A. Caffrey [eds.]. 2015. Coastal Adaptation Strategies: Case Studies. NPS 999/129700. National Park Service, Fort Collins, Colorado. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/incorporating-climate-change-response-general...(Last updated November 2015)

Project Contacts

Project Lead

Deborah DardenSuperintendentDeborah_Darden@nps.gov

Life on Assateague Island has adapted to an existence on the move. Explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and coastal bays. Rest, relax, recreate and enjoy some time on the edge of the continent.

Keywords

Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Flooding
Sea level rise
Storms or extreme weather events
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Coordinate planning and management
Increase / Improve public awareness, education, and outreach efforts
Conduct / Gather additional research, data, and products
Host adaptation training or planning workshop
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Managed retreat of built infrastructure, relocation of people/communities
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Governance and Policy
Create new or enhance existing policies or regulations

Related Resources

Summary: 

Assateague Island National Seashore is responsible for maintaining and managing access to a recreational beach that is impacted by storms multiple times each year. Maintaining the recreational beach in its present location is unsustainable in the face of continued storms, shoreline erosion, and sea level rise.

Rehabilitating Stream Crossings on Historic Roads, Acadia National Park, Maine

Photo attributed to Joseph Zarro. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 Internationallicense. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Acadia National Park in Maine is working to rehabilitate historic road systems and culverts that have been damaged by increasingly frequent flooding and erosion events that were causing maintenance and visitor use closures.

Reservoir Water Level Change Impacts on Cultural Resources, Amistad National Recreation Area, Texas

Photo attributed to Maekju. This work has been released into the public domain by its author. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Amistad National Recreation Area, Texas, protects many archeological sites in the Lower Pecos Canyonlands region of southwest Texas. Sites are affected by lake level fluctuations related to climate change impacts including precipitation, storms, and changes in agricultural water use. Park managers are documenting the impact of changing water levels on the cultural resources in the park. 

Summary: 

Climate change impacts, including coastal erosion, reduction in sea ice, and thawing of permafrost, are impacting Bering Land Bridge National Preserve (BELA) and Cape Krusenstern National Monument (CAKR) along the northwestern Alaska coast.

Adaptation Phase: 
Assessment
Summary: 

Climate change has increased the vulnerability of cultural resources in coastal locations at Bering Land Bridge National Preserve and Cape Krusenstern National Monument along the northwestern Alaska coast. The Alaska Regional Office is developing and testing a GIS model that is intended to predict locations and vulnerability of these cultural resources. 

Shell Mound Sites Threatened by Sea Level Rise and Erosion, Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

Photo attributed to Ebyabe. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Canaveral National Seashore contains several of the largest, most intact, and most significant prehistoric shell mounds in North America. Four of these mounds are threatened by erosion induced by sea level rise and increased storm activities.

Relocating the Lighthouse, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina

Photo attributed to Bohemian Baltimore. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Ongoing erosion threatened the base of a historic lighthouse at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, despite multiple hard stabilization protection efforts. The park needed to obtain funding and public support to relocate the lighthouse away from the eroding shoreline. 

Consideration of Shackleford Banks Renourishment, Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina

Photo attributed to Bonnie Gruenberg. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Cape Lookout National Seashore had to evaluate whether it was appropriate to pursue opportunities to mitigate shoreline erosion along Shackleford Banks, a proposed wilderness area.

The Need for Storm Recovery Plans, Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina

Photo attributed to the NPS/Michael B. Edwards. Incorporated here under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Cape Lookout National Seashore is regularly impacted by hurricanes and other storms. To improve park management, the park needed to develop a post-storm recovery plan to ensure wise fiscal decisions and management of public expectations for what facilities and services can be restored following these major events. 

Summary: 

Sea level rise and increased tropical storm intensity pose a serious risk to the long-term sustainability of historic Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida.

Developing Sustainable Visitor Facilities, Everglades National Park, Florida

Photo attributed to the dronepicr. Incorporated here under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Visitor facilities in the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park in Florida were destroyed by two hurricanes in 2005. Incorporating climate change sustainability into the redevelopment plan has required extensive data gathering efforts and public engagement. 

Incorporating Climate Change into Florida’s State Wildlife Action Plan

This image has been released into the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Although Florida habitats and species face significant threats related to sea level rise, Florida’s first state wildlife action plan did not comprehensively consider climate change impacts.

Summary: 

The goal of this project was to develop a plan to stabilize a historic lighthouse at Fort Pulaski National Monument in a way that considered expected sea level rise and related impacts.

Restoring the Jamaica Bay Wetlands, Gateway National Recreation Area, New York

Photo attributed to GK tramrunner229. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Gateway National Recreation Area partnered with other state and federal agencies to restore wetlands in Jamaica Bay, a eutrophic urban estuary, through sediment addition and plantings. While the project was not driven by climate change concerns, addressing marsh elevation loss is consistent with methods to address sea level rise.

Summary: 

Golden Gate National Recreation Area is collaborating with local, state, and federal agencies to develop a long-term management strategy for Ocean Beach, where bluff erosion threatens natural and recreational resources, wastewater infrastructure, and a roadway (the Great Highway). Sea level rise and increased storminess are expected to increase the frequency of erosional events. 

Establishing Alternative Transportation to Fort Pickens to Supplement Vulnerable Road Access, Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida

Photo attributed to Tony Webster. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. No endorsement by licensor implied. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

In Florida, the Fort Pickens Road within Gulf Islands National Seashore is regularly destroyed by storms, and repairs are expensive and time consuming. The park continues to reevaluate the local conditions and implement cost-effective, sustainable modes of visitor access to Fort Pickens beaches and the historic fort. 

Summary: 

The large-scale project known as the Mississippi Coastal Improvements Program (MsCIP) is intended to restore multiple barrier islands and protect cultural resources within Gulf Islands National Seashore by recreating sediment transport processes and replacing a portion of sediment lost to dredging and storm impacts. 

Recognizing Coral Adaptations to Environmental Stressors, National Park of American Samoa

This image has been released into the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the National Park Service. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Ofu Lagoon, part of the National Park of American Samoa, contains a healthy coral reef habitat that supports a diversity of species. The park is working with university partners towards the goal of understanding the unique adaptations of the coral in Ofu Lagoon to multiple environmental stressors associated with climate change.

Summary: 

The National Park Service Geologic Resources Division (NPS GRD) is working with the University of Colorado Boulder to develop sea level change and storm surge data that parks can use for planning purposes over multiple time horizons. 

Summary: 

Archeological sites and traditional resources of significance to indigenous groups along the Olympic Coast are being affected by climate change. The goals of this project can be split into three facets.

Restoring the Giacomini Wetlands from Agricultural Lands, Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Photo attributed to Robert Campbell, robertcampbellphotography.com. No endorsement by author implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Point Reyes National Seashore developed the Giacomini Wetland Restoration Project to restore tidal wetlands from diked agricultural lands.

Eroding Shoreline Threatens Historic Peale Island Cabin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Photo attributed to USGS. Incorporated here under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. No endorsement by licensor implied.

Case Study
Summary: 

Yellowstone National Park collaborated with the National Park Service Geologic Resources Division (NPS GRD) to examine the causes of shoreline erosion on Peale Island and to identify adaptation options for protecting the shoreline and a historic cabin on the island.