New Study Helps Agencies to Identify Coastal Strongholds

A new study conducted by The Nature Conservancy and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) helps land managers and agencies identify “coastal strongholds”.

Because of their unique topographies, elevations and landforms, these areas give threatened habitats in Delaware a chance to escape rising sea levels and continue to provide vital services to people and wildlife, said The Nature Conservancy.

The study also offers land managers a tool to gather comprehensive data – such as water quality, important wildlife areas, sediment and soil nitrogen levels – that can be used to develop targeted conservation plans across Delaware that will have the greatest chance of protecting coasts and communities against rising sea levels.

Among the strongholds identified in Delaware are the Milford Neck Wildlife Area including The Nature Conservancy’s Milford Neck Preserve, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Collins Creek and other undeveloped areas along Delaware’s Bayshore. The Bayshore extends from New Castle to Lewes, east of Route 1 along the Delaware Bay.

With sea levels projected to rise from one foot to as much as six feet by the next century, many coastal habitats – such as tidal marshes, sandy beaches and sea grass beds – could disappear forever under rising waters, according to The Nature Conservancy.

“As we commemorate the five-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, and continue to recover from this year’s disastrous hurricane season, we are reminded of the urgent need to protect threatened coastal habitats and communities,” said Mark Anderson, conservation scientist with The Nature Conservancy and lead author of the study.

“This study gives us hope that both people and nature can survive sea level rise, but we need protect these special landscapes so they can protect us.”

The research is supported by federal funding for Hurricane Sandy recovery in response to a need identified by a coalition of states, federal agencies and other conservation organizations for information to help land managers and communities make strategic decisions to help coastal systems and communities adapt to changing conditions.