Analysis of threats to coast will aid in State planning to protect communities
With more than 3,000 miles of shoreline and 72% of the state’s population living and working along the coast, Maryland’s coastal communities face particular risk to the impacts of a changing climate. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) releases the first-of-its-kind Maryland Coastal Adaptation Report Card that gives a snapshot of the current adaptation status in Maryland’s coastal counties and establishes a framework for measuring future progress.
Coastal adaptation refers to the actions taken to improve the ability of a community or ecosystem to respond to and withstand climate change impacts. For example, shoreline protection projects provide buffering against storm surges, and green infrastructure can slow stormwater runoff, reducing the impact heavy rains have on communities. Climate change is causing increasingly frequent and severe storms, hotter summers, warmer winters, sea level rise, and changes in precipitation patterns.
The State of Maryland is fairly well-adapted to handle continuing threats of climate change and earned an overall score of B-. Some indicators that were measured already meet, or are close to meeting, current adaptation goals, while others require significant investment to achieve adaptation goals.
The report card scored adaptation progress across Maryland’s coastal counties through 15 indicators divided in four categories—ecosystem, flooding, planning, and socioeconomic.
The ecosystem and planning categories score an A and a B+, respectively. Particular success has been seen in maintaining wetland acreage and in using dredge materials for restoration. Floodplain populations have also been reduced, decreasing the potential threat of coastal emergencies. Continued effort is still required to improve certain indicators, such as integrating and updating data and flood risk visualizations, including maps, as climate projections change.
Progress toward meeting flooding and socioeconomic adaptation goals is moderate, with both categories scoring a C. Many indicators in these categories, such as loss coverage through flood insurance, miss adaptation targets and require further action. The most urgent challenges are the location of critical facilities that must remain operational in emergencies in flood hazard areas and the need to adapt certain previously flooded properties to withstand future climate events.
“Coastal adaptation is increasingly important as we see the impact of climate change on our region,” said Science Integrator Katie May Laumann, who led the development of the report card at the UMCES’ Integration and Application Network. “The biggest challenge in developing the report card was finding adequate data. Data gaps also present challenges to managers planning for adaptation. Filling these gaps is important to inform planning and management decisions to improve Maryland’s adaptation status.”
Through a series of stakeholder workshops, the research team identified the climate change threats of most concern, how these threats are addressed, and what adaptation actions are most critical in measuring progress. The stakeholder process, combined with a literature review to identify viable indicators, resulted in the selection of the 15 indicators and four categories scored. The data and methods used for scoring were developed in close consultation with partners from many local, state, and federal agencies.
“Maryland continues to be a leader in adaptation,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. “Establishing indicators will help ensure that Maryland continues to make progress to protect our communities, economies, and natural resources now and in the future.”
The Maryland Coastal Adaptation Report Card was developed by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Integration and Application Network, with support from the Adaptation and Resiliency Work Group (ARWG) of the Maryland Commission on Climate Change (MCCC) through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
“Maryland’s research and higher education institutions are working to identify and understand present and future risks of climate change in order to inform government policies and programs and to identify solutions to further progresses on climate and coastal changes,” said Peter Goodwin, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, which also produces the annual Chesapeake Bay Watershed Report Card.