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A global standard for monitoring coastal wetland vulnerability to accelerated sea-level rise

Abstract

Sea-level rise threatens coastal salt-marshes and mangrove forests around the world, and a key determinant of coastal wetland vulnerability is whether its surface elevation can keep pace with rising sea level. Globally, a large data gap exists because wetland surface and shallow subsurface processes remain unaccounted for by traditional vulnerability assessments using tide gauges. Moreover, those processes vary substantially across wetlands, so modelling platforms require relevant local data. The low-cost, simple, high-precision rod surface-elevation table–marker horizon (RSET-MH) method fills this critical data gap, can be paired with spatial data sets and modelling and is financially and technically accessible to every country with coastal wetlands. Yet, RSET deployment has been limited to a few regions and purposes. A coordinated expansion of monitoring efforts, including development of regional networks that could support data sharing and collaboration, is crucial to adequately inform coastal climate change adaptation policy at several scales.

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Figure 1: RSET-MH and tide gauge set-up in a coastal mangrove.
Figure 2: RSET set-up and measurements.

US GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

Figure 3: Disparity in coastal wetland vulnerability and surface-elevation monitoring.

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Acknowledgements

E.L.W. and D.A.F. were supported by the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, grants R303-001-001-272 and R303-001-024-414. E.L.W. was supported by Ministry of Education, Government of Singapore grant R-154-000-400-133. D.A.F. was supported by Ministry of Education, Government of Singapore grant R-109-000-141-133. K.W.K., D.R.C., and G.R.G. were supported by the USGS Climate and Land Use Change R&D Program. The Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University and the South African Environmental Observation Network provided South African RSET data points. C. Lovelock provided the location of the RSET site in Indonesia. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government.

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E.L.W., D.A.F. and K.W.K. conceptualized the paper; D.R.C., D.A.F. and G.R.G. compiled global RSET locations; D.A.F. and E.L.W. conducted the GIS and expenditure analyses, and E.L.W., D.A.F., K.W.K., D.R.C., G.R.G. and J.P. wrote the paper.

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Correspondence to Edward L. Webb or Daniel A. Friess.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Summary of published studies that utilize the SET or RSET-MH method to report coastal wetland surface elevation change. (PDF 426 kb)

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Webb, E., Friess, D., Krauss, K. et al. A global standard for monitoring coastal wetland vulnerability to accelerated sea-level rise. Nature Clim Change 3, 458–465 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1756

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