Overview of the Impacts of Sea Level Rise on Coastal Forests and Wetlands in National Wildlife Refuges in the Mid-Atlantic Region
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The National Wildlife Refuge System was established to assist the Fish and Wildlife Service in accomplishing their wildlife conservation goals. However, many of the refuges are located in areas susceptible to impacts from climate change, including sea level rise. Refuges in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States are particularly vulnerable given the higher than average rate of sea level rise in the region. Therefore, this project aims to quantify the impacts of sea level rise on coastal ecosystems within the refuges of the Mid-Atlantic. Based on the findings, recommendations for adaptation and mitigation of sea level rise impacts are given. The results of this study revealed substantial loss of ecologically significant protected land, with total NWR inundation ranging from 5-100%. Completing this research project allowed me to gain practical knowledge and further develop many skills. The data collection for this project was done through the use of ArcGIS, which gave me more technical experience with the software. I also gained more experience in conducting literature reviews and the background research necessary to develop a research topic and plan, as well as the actual process of developing and continuously revising the research plan. I also gained knowledge about the Chesapeake Bay region, including its ecological significance, the mechanisms behind sea level rise, and how sea level rise will impact its coastal ecosystems. I also now have a better understanding of where governmental management in the region is effective and where it is lacking. While this project does not tie into what I do in my current job as a science technician in a chemistry lab, it is closely related to my ideal career, which would be research, restoration, and conservation of the Chesapeake Bay and the surrounding area, and has helped me develop skills and knowledge necessary to obtain that career.