Estuaries are places where rivers meet the sea, providing nursery habitat for fish and shellfish while buffering many coastal communities from the impacts of coastal storms and sea level rise. The climate exposure of each reserve provides first alarm indicators about the effects of climate change on the coastal ecosystems. Ongoing research at each of the reserves provides real-time data about how climate change impacts these important natural resources.
Almost 40 percent of all Americans, or about 123 million people, live in the counties directly along the shoreline and depend on these resources for food, jobs, storm protection, and recreation. Approximately 50 percent, or $6.6 trillion, of the nation’s gross domestic product comes from coastal watershed counties which support more than 51 million jobs.
Researchers determined the extent of relative climate sensitivity in the reserves by looking at five factors: social, biophysical, and ecological sensitivity, and exposure to temperature change and sea level rise.