Modeling the impacts of sea level rise on ecosystem services of the urban-coastal fringe in Jamaica Bay, New York
The urban-coastal fringe is a dynamic and globally common ecosystem that provides a suite of ecosystem services. Projections of sea level rise (SLR), increased coastal storm intensity and frequency, and flooding threaten ecosystem function of these areas and therefore the future resilience of coastal cities. Landscape ecology research efforts have cited the need for further study of urban ecosystem services and changing landscapes. This research begins to address these gaps in ecosystem service science and landscape ecology, by presenting an original ecosystem service model for the Jamaica Bay watershed in New York City. In doing so, this study asks two primary research questions: 1) What are the ecosystem services provided by the urban-coastal fringe landscape of the Jamaica Bay watershed; and 2) What is the projected impact of SLR on the provision of ecosystem services within this watershed? To address these questions, we developed a model that synthesizes two types of land cover data, a static SLR model, and empirical research on urban and wetland ecosystem services to calculate carbon sequestration (kg C/m2/yr) and carbon storage (kg C/m2). Estimates of these ecosystem services are modeled for present day conditions and projected for 2020, 2050, 2080, and 2100.
Model results demonstrate that SLR will reduce carbon sequestration and carbon storage across all land cover types in the Jamaica Bay watershed. Between 2010 and 2100, majority of land loss due to SLR is in the coastal zone, resulting in a 91% decrease in wetlands and 27% decrease in maritime forest/shrub communities. While projections of total land loss by 2100 is relatively minimal (<6%), the impacts on carbon flow are significant. When comparing against present day, future projects indicate a 60% decrease in annual carbon sequestration and 9% decrease in carbon storage. The model presented here may be extended to other urban coastal landscapes in the northeast United States and may be adapted to included additional ecosystem service measures. Ultimately, such modeling may be utilized to identify areas of ecological vulnerability and value to inform and direct conservation, restoration, and urban planning—thereby increasing the future resilience of coastal cities.