Maine’s coastal wetlands play a critical role in maintaining valuable groundfish and diadromous fish species nearshore habitat while providing additional ecosystem services to coastal communities including a natural defense to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. However, Maine does not yet have a coordinated vision for how to conserve these habitats statewide and effectively integrate natural solutions for risk reduction and resilience planning. In order to better plan for the future, Maine’s coastal communities need decision-support tools to ensure the security of these valued coastal resources.
Need for a Coordinated Vision
Revitalization of Maine’s coastal wetlands can play an important role in restoring groundfish and diadromous fish species in the Gulf of Maine, while also bolstering the natural defenses for our coastal communities in the face of sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. While there are promising pockets of nearshore habitat restoration work in Maine, at present there is no coordinated vision for how to conserve these habitats statewide, nor how to effectively integrate natural solutions into coastal communities’ risk reduction and resilience planning. Likewise, critical natural and built infrastructure along Maine’s coast is threatened by sea level rise. Maine’s coastal communities need tools and assistance to better plan for the future.
Together with partners at the Maine Natural Areas Program, the Maine Geological Survey and NOAA, TNC Maine has developed an innovative decision-support tool to help Maine’s coastal communities make coordinated and informed decisions for the future of their coastal wetlands. This tool helps stakeholders such as state and local governments, land trusts, and private citizens not only target salt marsh conservation in the face of sea level rise, but also plan more effectively to ensure coastal infrastructure security, thereby making Maine’s coastal communities more resilient.
The team plans use the tool to guide a series of resilience planning sessions with communities and land trusts with the aim of generating on-the-ground projects. As part of the tool, ‘Coastal Risk Explorer’ App is being developed to visualize high-resolution data developed by the Maine Geological Survey which depicts a 1-meter sea level rise (SLR) projection for the entire Maine coast. The app will also include a Social Vulnerability Index to identify the most at-risk communities especially at risk to SLR. The intent of the app is to help state, regional, and local planners target areas especially in need of risk reduction planning. The ‘Future Habitats Explorer’ App will allows users to visualize data developed by the Maine Natural Areas Program that will support identification of parcel-scale opportunities for conservation, enabling future coastal marsh migration. The intent of this app is to help local land trusts identify high-value land acquisition projects, and use the app to develop maps for use in conservation planning as well as fundraising.