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Rising Tides: Assessing Habitat Vulnerability for an Endangered Salt Marsh-Dependent Species with Sea-Level Rise

  • Jordan A. Rosencranz
  • Karen M. Thorne
  • Kevin J. Buffington
  • Cory T. Overton
  • John Y. Takekawa
  • Michael L. Casazza
  • Jennifer McBroom
  • Julian K. Wood
  • Nadav Nur
  • Richard L. Zembal
  • Glen M. MacDonald
  • Richard F. Ambrose
Wetlands and Climate Change


Salt marsh-dependent species are vulnerable to impacts of sea-level rise (SLR). Site-specific differences in ecogeomorphic processes result in different SLR vulnerabilities. SLR impacts to Ridgway’s rail (Rallus obsoletus) of Southern California (SC) and San Francisco Bay (SF), U.S.A. could foreshadow SLR effects on other coastal endemic species. Salt marsh vulnerabilities to SLR were forecasted across 14 study sites using the Wetland Accretion Rate Model of Ecosystem Resilience, which accounts for changes in above and belowground marsh processes. Changes in suitable habitat for rail were projected with MaxEnt. Under a high (166 cm/100 yr) SLR scenario, current extent of suitable habitat is projected to increase by 34% across the combined area of 14 sites by 2050, but by 2100, total habitat suitability is projected to decrease by 83%, with six salt marshes losing over 95% of suitable habitat. Under a high SLR scenario, SF’s suitable habitat is predicted to increase by 35% at mid-century, and SC’s current suitable habitat extent will increase by 24%. However, by 2100, SF is forecasted to lose 84% of suitable habitat and SC to lose 80% of its current habitat extent. If accretion rates cannot keep pace with SLR, salt marsh obligate species are in danger of being extirpated from their habitat.


California Dynamic process model Habitat suitability Salt marsh specialist Sea level rise scenarios Species distribution model 



The authors would like to thank all of the technicians, graduate students, and volunteers who assisted with bird and salt marsh habitat surveys. We would also like to thank C. Wisley for sharing his species distribution modeling expertise with us. The project described in this publication was supported by the Southwest Climate Science Centers (SWCSC) and National Climate Change and Wildlife Science Center of the US Department of the Interior, and the USGS Western Ecological Research Center. Any use of trade, product, or firm names in this publication is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the US Government. All co-authors have seen and agree with the contents of the manuscript, and there is no conflict of interest to report.


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Copyright information

© US Government 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jordan A. Rosencranz
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Karen M. Thorne
    • 3
  • Kevin J. Buffington
    • 3
  • Cory T. Overton
    • 4
  • John Y. Takekawa
    • 3
    • 5
  • Michael L. Casazza
    • 4
  • Jennifer McBroom
    • 6
  • Julian K. Wood
    • 7
  • Nadav Nur
    • 7
  • Richard L. Zembal
    • 8
  • Glen M. MacDonald
    • 1
    • 9
  • Richard F. Ambrose
    • 1
    • 10
  1. 1.Institute of the Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.WRA, Inc.San RafaelUSA
  3. 3.Davis Field Station, Western Ecological Research CenterU.S. Geological SurveyDavisUSA
  4. 4.Dixon Field Station, Western Ecological Research CenterU.S. Geological SurveyDixonUSA
  5. 5.Suisun Resource Conservation DistrictSuisun CityUSA
  6. 6.Olofson Environmental, Inc.OaklandUSA
  7. 7.Point Blue Conservation SciencePetalumaUSA
  8. 8.Orange County Water DistrictFountain ValleyUSA
  9. 9.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  10. 10.Department of Environmental Health SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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