Changes in Habitat Availability for Multiple Life Stages of Diamondback Terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin) in Chesapeake Bay in Response to Sea Level Rise

  • Ryan J. Woodland
  • Christopher L. Rowe
  • Paula F. P. Henry

DOI: 10.1007/s12237-017-0209-2

Cite this article as:
Woodland, R.J., Rowe, C.L. & Henry, P.F.P. Estuaries and Coasts (2017). doi:10.1007/s12237-017-0209-2


Global sea level rise (SLR) will significantly alter coastal landscapes through inundation and erosion of low-lying areas. Animals that display area fidelity and rely on fringing coastal habitats during multiple life stages, such as diamondback terrapins (Malaclemys terrapin Schoepff 1793), are likely to be particularly vulnerable to SLR-induced changes. We used a combination of empirical nest survey data and results from a regional SLR model to explore the long-term availability of known nesting locations and the modeled availability of fringing coastal habitats under multiple SLR scenarios for diamondback terrapin in the MD portion of Chesapeake Bay and the MD coastal bays. All SLR scenarios projected the rapid inundation of historically used nesting locations of diamondback terrapins with 25%–55% loss within the next 10 years and over 80% loss by the end of the century. Model trajectories of habitat losses or gains depended on habitat type and location. A key foraging habitat, brackish marsh, was projected to decline 6%–94%, with projections varying spatially and among scenarios. Despite predicted losses of extant beach habitats, future gains in beach habitat due to erosion and overwash were projected to reach 40%–600%. These results demonstrate the potential vulnerability of diamondback terrapins to SLR in Chesapeake Bay and underscore the possibility of compounding negative effects of SLR on animals whose habitat requirements differ among life stages. More broadly, this study highlights the vulnerability of species dependent on fringing coastal habitats and emphasizes the need for a long-term perspective for coastal development in the face of SLR.


Turtle Estuary Global change Disturbance Conservation SLAMM 

Supplementary material

12237_2017_209_MOESM1_ESM.docx (42 kb)
ESM 1(DOCX 42 kb)

Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ryan J. Woodland
    • 1
  • Christopher L. Rowe
    • 1
  • Paula F. P. Henry
    • 2
  1. 1.University of Maryland Center for Environmental ScienceChesapeake Biological LaboratorySolomonsUSA
  2. 2.US Geological Survey, Patuxent Wildlife Research CenterBeltsvilleUSA

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