Using models to reveal potential impacts of sea level rise on tidal marshes

Rapidly rising seas threaten to drown tidal marshes and diminish the benefits provided to people and wildlife by these valuable coastal ecosystems. We teamed up with experts to translate the latest science to facilitate accurate risk assessments and development of effective management strategies.


National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Northeast Regional Ocean Council

The Nature Conservancy


Increasingly, government agencies and non-government organizations are harnessing the power of computer-based models of marsh ecosystems to inform management and policy strategies to sustain tidal marshes, including by allowing marshes to shift gradually inland with sea level rise onto formerly dry land—a process known as marsh migration. While these models can be useful tools, they are easily misused and misinterpreted, potentially leading to poor conservation and management outcomes. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), The Nature Conservancy, and the Northeast Regional Ocean Council (NROC) engaged Waterview Consulting for two related efforts to provide practitioners with guidance on effective use of marsh migration models.    


Much of the relevant information on this topic had not yet been published in the scientific literature. For that reason, our interdisciplinary team of science communicators, geospatial modelers, and graphic designers relied on knowledge co-development processes in collaboration with experts in related disciplines. Through expert interviews and a regional workshop of practitioners and scientists, as well as a scientific and technical literature review, we brought together the most up-to-date information about how to use models effectively in efforts to sustain tidal marshes in an era of sea level rise. Our work was also informed by our involvement in many previous marsh-related initiatives, such as writing a book on Salt Marshes in the Gulf of Maine: Human Impacts, Habitat Restoration, and Long-term Change Analysis published by the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment.

Elevation zones in a tidal marsh


We produced two publications that communicate the knowledge and findings that were developed in these projects. Both publications are written and designed to be engaging, accessible, and useful for people who are interested in this issue but are not specialists. The publications also provide useful insights for scientific experts and modeling practitioners about how to communicate their work.

Marshes on the Move Cover
Marshes on the Move Cover

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