Assessing the potential for climate-driven changes in Virginia's shallow tidal water habitats. NOAA Chesapeake Bay Program. October 2007-September 2008.
This project is designed to support enhanced stewardship of critical estuarine resources – shallow water habitats. The proposed work will involve integration of a wide variety of data regarding the littoral and riparian areas along Virginia’s estuarine shorelines. The objective is to develop a characterization of current habitat components in the shallow water areas of the Commonwealth. This information will then be used as the basis for modeling potential future conditions in these areas as climate change and development exert their influences. We plan to describe the changes in habitat characteristics expected to occur in the next 50 to 100 years. The purpose is inform current management and planning efforts by identifying areas at significant risk for changes to habitat components, and areas with significant potential to support critical habitat components in the future.
We propose to integrate a variety of data sources to predict near term changes in the character of shallow water habitats in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. This will be accomplished by constructing simple forecast models for key habitat parameters such as distribution of marshes, submerged aquatic vegetation, shoreline structure, riparian land use, salinity and temperature. The objective is to characterize shallow water reaches according to the combination of these factors, both at present and in potential future scenarios. These analyses can be used to inform management efforts to identify and protect areas where habitat complexes are most likely to be sustainable. The analysis can also inform forward-looking management that seeks to preserve opportunities for migration of habitat elements in an evolving system. From a practical perspective, understanding potential futures can inform targeting of limited management resources to areas at greatest risk and/or areas with the greatest probability for successful outcomes.