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Project Details

Science in Support of Adaptation Planning for Climate Variability and Coastal Hazard Vulnerability in the Chesapeake Bay

Project Status: This project began in June 2014 and is Ongoing

The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, provides people with valuable ecosystem services. Impacts from climate change, including sea level rise and changes in precipitation, can threaten these services. We are developing community-level indicators and collecting necessary data to support a vulnerability assessment and subsequent adaptation plan for a Chesapeake Bay community in order to improve the community’s resilience to climate and coastal hazard impacts.

Why We Care
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States, with a total of 11,684 miles of shoreline along the bay and its tributaries. For over a century, the bay and its watershed have provided people with valuable ecosystem services. The history, culture, and economy of communities in this region are deeply intertwined with the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Climate and coastal hazard impacts could threaten the fishing, tourism, property, and shipping industries of the Chesapeake Bay, which generate $60 billion annually. Understanding the vulnerabilities of communities along the bay to climate and coastal hazard impacts—like sea level rise, coastal erosion, and increased frequency of severe storms—requires an integrated approach. The tools and information we are generating through this project will improve the community’s resilience to a changing climate as well as other coastal hazards.

What We Are Doing
We evaluated the vulnerability of the Town of Oxford and Talbot County, Maryland in the Chesapeake Bay region to the localized impacts of climate variability and other coastal hazards. To accomplish this, we first developed a set of appropriate indicators, then gathered and analyzed existing social, structural, and ecological data in conjunction with selected flood risks to characterize the selected community. We compiled the findings into information products for the community. The vulnerability indicators spanned the following areas:

  • Social/Economic – e.g., population demographics, economic characteristics
  • Structural – e.g., building characteristics
  • Ecological – e.g., natural resource distribution and richness

We assisted in the facilitation of stakeholder engagement to ensure that vulnerability and risk were appropriately identified and translated in a way that will serve as a foundation for the community to address risk and identify adaptation strategies moving forward. The data provided, together with the stakeholder process, is aiding the community in risk reduction by fostering the identification of adaptation and restoration strategies, which will ultimately inform coastal flood adaptation decision making. Ultimately, the community is better prepared for response, recovery, and resilience to climate and coastal hazard impacts.

Though the initial data collection and development of a vulnerability assessment tool focuses on a single community of the Chesapeake Bay, the methodological approach is intended for application across a wide range of coastal communities. This will allow us to support additional coastal communities in different states and regions with the science needed for adaptation planning.

To demonstrate this flexibility, the project team has applied this framework to a larger region within the Chesapeake Bay: the Choptank Habitat Focus Area. This work was conducted at the watershed level, spanning five counties in Maryland and Delaware, and was completed at a different unit of analysis. The second iteration of this research is currently in the final stages of completion.

Throughout both applications of this framework, the project team included partners from NOAA/NCCOS, NOAA/NMFS, NOAA/OCM, the Maryland CoastSmart Program, Maryland SeaGrant, the Town of Oxford, MD, and Talbot County, MD.

Regions of Study: Chesapeake Bay, Delaware, Maryland

Primary Contacts: Theresa Goedeke, Chloe Fleming, Seann Regan

Research Themes: Climate Impacts (Climate Adaptation, Vulnerability Assessments, Impacts of Changing Temperature and Hydrology, Impacts of Sea Level Rise) • Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management (Ecological Forecasts and Tools, Human Dimensions)

Related NCCOS Centers: CCMA, HML


Project Products

 Data Collections
 Publications

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