Mapping Tidal Wetlands and Their Losses on the U.S. West Coast: New Methods, New Insights

Meeting Date: 3/29/2018

- 3/29/2018

Location: Corvallis, OR/Webinar


OneNOAA Science Seminar Series

Speaker: Laura Brophy, Director, Estuary Technical Group, Institute for Applied Ecology, Corvallis OR and Marine Resource Management Program, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR. Presenting from Corvalis, OR.

Coauthors: Correigh Greene1, Van Hare2, Brett Holycross2, Andy Lanier3, Hiroo Imaki1, Tanya Haddad3, Randy Dana3, Walter Heady4, Kevin O'Connor5. Co-author affiliations: 1 NOAA Fisheries, Seattle, WA 2 Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission, Portland, OR 3 Oregon Coastal Management Program, Dept. of Land Conservation and Development, Salem, OR 4 The Nature Conservancy 5 Moss Landing Marine Labs

Sponsor: NOAA's National Ocean Service Science Seminar; host is

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Abstract: How can we be more effective in our work to conserve and restore estuarine wetlands on the U.S. West Coast, both under current conditions and projected future sea level rise? The first step is to make sure we have accurately mapped the historical and current extent of estuarine wetlands. Existing tidal wetland mapping such as the National Wetland Inventory has limitations for these purposes; for example, it doesn't explicitly mapformer tidal wetlands (which represent restoration opportunities). To meet today's coastal resource management needs, our team, coordinated through the Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership (PMEP), recently generated new maps of current and historical tidal wetlands for the entire contiguous U.S. West Coast (Washington, Oregon, and California). The new maps use LIDAR digital elevation models (DEMs) and NOAA extreme water level models to establish the maximum extent of tidal wetlands, and they represent a major step forward in accuracy and utility for restoration planning and analysis of wetland loss and conversion. Building from this new base, our team developed an indirect method for mapping tidal wetland losses, and generated maps of these losses for 55 estuaries on the West Coast, representing about 98% of historical West Coast tidal wetland area. Based on this assessment, about 85% of tidal wetlands have been lost from West Coast estuaries, a figure of clear significance. The new maps will help interested groups develop improved action plans for conserving what remains, and for restoring tidal wetlands to support vital habitat for fish and wildlife and many other valued wetland functions.

About the Speaker: Laura Brophy is the Director of the Estuary Technical Group at the Institute for Applied Ecology in Corvallis, Oregon. She provides leadership in science-based decision support for estuary restoration and conservation priorities in the Pacific Northwest. Her current work focuses on West Coast estuarine habitat mapping and prioritization; analysis of climate change threats and strategic planning for sustainability of Pacific Northwest wetland ecosystems; and effectiveness monitoring at Oregon's largest tidal wetland restoration projects.

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