Maryland Coastal Resiliency Assessment
With its extensive shoreline, Maryland’s coasts experience flooding and erosion, caused by tides and storms and exacerbated by sea level rise. Natural habitats, such as marshes and coastal forests, can reduce the impacts of these hazards through the processes of wave attenuation, increased infiltration and sediment stabilization. While the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) utilizes various tools to target restoration and protection of habitats based on ecological, water quality and other criteria, these tools do not evaluate the risk-reduction benefits of natural features such as forests, marshes, dunes, oyster reefs, and underwater grasses. To support the DNR in their efforts to incorporate risk-reduction benefits into decisionmaking, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) partnered with the Chesapeake and Coastal Services (CCS) to conduct a Statewide Coastal Resiliency Assessment.
In order to spatially assess where natural habitats have the greatest potential to reduce risk for people, it is important to address three questions: where are the hazards, where are the people, and where are the habitats? The project team used spatially explicit computer modeling informed by scientific literature and local expert opinion to answer these questions and identify where natural habitats provide the greatest potential risk reduction for Maryland’s coastal communities. The products of the Assessment include calculation of a Shoreline Hazard Index, which estimates the relative exposure to coastal hazards for the entire Maryland shoreline; delineation of Coastal Community Flood Risk Areas; selection of Priority Shoreline Areas for conservation and/or restoration; and the calculation of a Marsh Protection Potential Index. Habitats play a large potential role in risk reduction for MD coastal residents. The results of this Assessment provide tools to target coastal adaptation efforts so that protecting or restoring natural habitats also provides the greatest risk reduction benefit to coastal residential communities