NOAA: Lots of land cover change in coastal areas seen

From NOAA: NOAA analysis reveals significant land cover changes in US coastal regions

This image shows wetland gains and losses in the Southeast U.S. from 1996-2011.

Land Cover Atlas helps communities ‘see’ vulnerabilities and craft stronger resilience plans

A new NOAA nationwide analysis shows that between 1996 and 2011, 64,975 square miles in coastal regions–an area larger than the state of Wisconsin–experienced changes in land cover, including a decline in wetlands and forest cover with development a major contributing factor.

Overall, 8.2 percent of the nation’s ocean and Great Lakes coastal regions experienced these changes. In analysis of the five year period between 2001-2006, coastal areas accounted for 43 percent of all land cover change in the continental U.S. This report identifies a wide variety of land cover changes that can intensify climate change risks, such as loss of coastal barriers to sea level rise and storm surge, and includes environmental data that can help coastal managers improve community resilience.

“Land cover maps document what’s happening on the ground. By showing how that land cover has changed over time, scientists can determine how these changes impact our plant’s environmental health,” said Nate Herold, a NOAA physical scientist who directs the mapping effort at NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in Charleston, S.C.

Among the significant changes were the loss of 1,536 square miles of wetlands, and a decline in total forest cover by 6.1 percent.

The findings mirror similar changes in coastal wetland land cover loss reported in the November 2013 report, Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009, an interagency supported analysis published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA.

This new NOAA analysis adds to the 2013 report with more recent data and includes loss of forest cover in an overall larger land area survey. Both wetlands and forest cover are critical to the promotion and protection of coastal habitat for the nation’s multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industries..

Development was a major contributing factor in the decline of both categories of land cover. Wetland loss due to development equals 642 square miles, a disappearance rate averaging 61 football fields lost daily. Forest changes overall totaled 27,515 square miles, equaling West Virginia, Rhode Island and Delaware combined. This total impact, however, was partially offset by reforestation growth. Still, the net forest cover loss was 16,483 square miles.

These findings, and many others, are viewable via the Land Cover Atlas program from the NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP). Standardized NOAA maps allow scientists to compare maps from different regions and maps from the same place but from different years, providing easily accessible data that are critically important to scientists, managers, and city planners as the U.S. population along the coastline continues to grow.

“The ability to mitigate the growing evidence of climate change along our coasts with rising sea levels already impacting coastlines in ways not imaged just a few years ago makes the data available through the Land Cover Atlas program critically important to coastal resilience planning,” said Margaret Davidson, National Ocean Service senior advisor for coastal inundation and resilience science services.

C-CAP data identify a wide variety of land cover changes that can intensify climate change risks-for example, forest or wetland losses that threaten to worsen flooding and water quality issues or weaken the area’s fishing and forestry industries. The atlas’s visuals help make NOAA environmental data available to end users, enabling them to help the public better understand the importance of improving resilience.

“Seeing changes over five, 10, or even 15 years allows Land Cover Atlas users to focus on local hazard vulnerabilities and improve their resilience plans,” said Jeffrey L. Payne, Ph.D., acting director for NOAA’s Coastal Services Center. “For instance, the atlas has helped its users assess sea level rise hazards in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, high-risk areas for stormwater runoff in southern California, and the best habitat restoration sites in two watersheds of the Great Lakes.”

Selected Regional Findings – 1996 to 2011:

  • The Northeast region added more than 1,170 square miles of development, an area larger than Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the District of Columbia combined
  • The West Coast region experienced a net loss of 3,200 square miles of forest (4,900 square miles of forests were cut while 1,700 square miles were regrown)
  • The Great Lakes was the only region to experience a net wetlands gain (69 square miles), chiefly because drought and lower lake levels changed water features into marsh or sandy beach.
  • The Southeast region lost 510 square miles of wetlands, with more than half this number replaced by development
  • Many factors led to the Gulf Coast region’s loss of 996 square miles of wetlands, due to land subsidence and erosion, storms, man-made changes, sea level rise, and other factors
  • On a positive note, local restoration activities, such as in Florida’s Everglades, and lake-level changes enabled some Gulf Coast and Southeast region communities to gain modest-sized wetland areas, although such gains did not make up for the larger regional wetland losses
  • C-CAP moderate-resolution data on the Land Cover Atlas encompasses the intertidal areas, wetlands, and adjacent uplands of 29 states fronting the oceans and Great Lakes. High-resolution data are available for select locations.

All C-CAP data sets are featured on the Digital Coast. Tools like the Digital Coast are important components of NOAA’s National Ocean Service’s efforts to protect coastal resources and keep communities safe from coastal hazards by providing data, tools, training, and technical assistance. Check out other products and services on Facebook or Twitter.

20 thoughts on “NOAA: Lots of land cover change in coastal areas seen

  1. grumpoldmanuk
    my understanding is that the original application was made to use ‘thinnings’ and other surplus wood from the Carolinas rather than fresh wood from mature trees. It would be interesting to find the original application on which this mad scheme was based. How its supposed to be ‘green’ I don’t know.

  2. “The Great Lakes was the only region to experience a net wetlands gain (69 square miles), chiefly because drought and lower lake levels changed water features into marsh or sandy beach”
    This makes me wonder what the “wetlands” definition is. No doubt anything we used to call a swamp (sorry for the S word) is now a wetland. But at what point does the metamorphosis to “lake” occur? (And where do ponds fit in there?)

  3. In Lousiana,USA huge swaths of land are clearcut for the lumber and pulpwood industrys. Almost all of the trash is left to rot… Business opportunity??

  4. My suggestion on taking personal responsibility for reducing dangers related to storm surges. Don’t buy or build on the fricken shoreline.

  5. The study is a usual phrased in vagueries. WHat is really happening is that coastal lands are increasing as the sea levels recede.. Wetlands are being lost at an ever increasing rate for the same reason. Sea level creates and supports wetlands. When the sea recedes it drains the wetland. The entire east coast was wetlands during colonial times. Today all those wetlands are disappearing from Florida to Canada. The wetlands in Jamaica Bay New York have been drying up and dying for several years. The EPA has spent millions dredging the marshes deeper: planting marsh grasses and flooding the area to recreate the wetlands. After five years the effort is proving useless because the sea level is falling and draining the Marshes again. Why dont you all contact the State of NEw Jersey and let them relate their own land gain story. They have been ahead of the game for years with what they have learned. They know that the coastal lands are growing and they are selling tlhem off as fast as the sea level falls. They can even tell you where the sea level was back in 1776. New Jersey has gained nearly 50000 Hectares of new coastal land in the 200 years since 1776. New York has gained a half mile of coastal lands since then.
    See “The Mysterious Receding Seas” Videos on youtube and on Google. Richard Guy
    Tel; 914-563-8529 or 867-445-8012.

  6. Joe Born says:
    August 19, 2014 at 5:22 am
    “This makes me wonder what the “wetlands” definition is.”
    This is a complicated question. From the USGS:
    “Wetland” is a generic term for all the different kinds of wet habitats–implying that it is land that is wet for some period of time, but not necessarily permanently wet. Wetlands have numerous definitions and classifications in the United States as a result of their diversity, the need for their inventory, and the regulation of their uses.

    Part of my front yard is classified by my city as “wetlands,” which means I can’t cut any trees (unless they are a hazard to the house) or do any other development on that portion of land. That’s OK for me as the trees provide a privacy barrier for the house; but for others, wetlands regulation may be a bit of a nuisance if you want to develop your property.
    BTW – my “wetlands” are perfectly dry right now… 🙂

  7. These changes sound like big numbers but my geography is lacking.
    Could someone put these changes into percentages or in some other way give me an idea of how big these changes are compared to the total, coastal land areas?
    Thanks in advance.

  8. RCM says:
    August 19, 2014 at 6:20 am

    All this is due to Agenda 21 – Chapter 18. NOAA and the EPA are just doing as required by the UN. In the same way the UK Environment Agency was responsible for the Somerset levels flooding due to ‘Making Space for Water’ a program of trying to recover coastal wetlands even if that means flooding homes and farms.

  9. “DocWat says:
    August 19, 2014 at 5:17 am
    Could you report on the volume or weight of wood used by the “green” power plant?”
    Here is some info from Wikipedia:
    “In September 2012 Drax Group announced the conversion to full firing with biomass of three of its six units. The first unit was scheduled to be online by June 2013, the second unit in 2014, and the third by 2017; initially a biomass supply had been secured for the first unit. The cost was estimated at £700 million ($1.13 billion), including modifications to fuel mills and boilers and the construction of storage structures and conveyors for the wood pellet fuel. Each unit will consume about 2.3 million tonnes of biomass yearly, requiring an estimated annual total of 7.5 million tonnes in 2017. This is equivalent to two-thirds of Europe’s entire energy biomass consumption in 2010, and requires 1,200,000 ha (4,600 sq mi; 12,000 km2) of forest to supply on a continuous basis.[49][50] North America was expected to be the source of the vast majority of the biomass, although some would be domestically sourced willow and elephant grass.”

  10. Pamela Gray says:
    August 19, 2014 at 5:31 am
    My suggestion on taking personal responsibility for reducing dangers related to storm surges. Don’t buy or build on the fricken shoreline.
    Pamela, it’s a little over hyped……my back door is ~20ft from the shoreline… was my great grandparents…nothing has changed….sea level hasn’t changed….and we’re right in the middle of hurricane alley
    … careful with this….next it will be don’t build where there’s earthquakes, mudslides, snow storms, ice storms, tornadoes, straightline wind storms, droughts, floods, wild fires, ……. or aphids
    ….there’s no place you can build and not have something

  11. Pamela Gray says:
    August 19, 2014 at 5:31 am
    My suggestion on taking personal responsibility for reducing dangers related to storm surges. Don’t buy or build on the fricken shoreline.

    Is it really idiotic when the individuals involved assume to little personal risk? Stop government bailouts of wealthy vacation homes and this idiocy will stop.

  12. Richard Guy says:
    August 19, 2014 at 5:47 am
    RG assumes both SLR and GIA are myths, thus re-creating a mystery: where did all the water go? “Re-creating” because Noah’s ark presents a similar problem: after it was stranded on Mt. Ararat what happened to the water? But the “Preacher” of Ecclesiastes had it all figured out: nothing is new under the sun, including the rain–it just gets recycled. RG is stuck somewhere back there between Canticles and Chronicles. Apparently:
    1) The earth is very rigid–not at all plastic or elastic; or
    2) The ice ages are a myth; and
    3) GRACE is entirely fraudulent; and
    4) IERS is a fake; or
    5) RG is a quack.
    I prefer trolls. –AGF

  13. Frank K: “This is a complicated question.”
    Thanks a lot for the response. I knew the definition would be vague, but I hadn’t expected the bureaucrat’s dream it turned out to be.

  14. oe Born says:
    August 19, 2014 at 11:16 am
    Thanks a lot for the response. I knew the definition would be vague, but I hadn’t expected the bureaucrat’s dream it turned out to be.
    A bureaucrats wetland dream?

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