Sun rise casts pink light over a coastal MD wetland.
COASTAL MARYLAND Coastal wetlands play a crucial role as a first line of defense from storm surges. © Kent Mason

Stories in Maryland/DC

Strengthening Coasts

Tackling climate change through mitigation and adaptation.

Sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay have risen about a foot in the last century—an alarming rate at more than twice the global average. By 2050, models project that we could see an average of two feet of sea-level rise. With more than 7,000 miles of Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay shoreline, our communities across the state are already dealing with flooding, marsh loss, and saltwater damage to agricultural fields.

The Nature Conservancy takes a two-pronged approach to tackling climate change: mitigation and adaptation. We mitigate the acceleration of climate change by working to reduce carbon emissions with renewable energy projects. And we adapt to climate change by using science to understand and adjust to the changes that we know are coming.

Aerial photograph of the wetlands in Maryland's Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area.
Maryland's Fishing Bay Aerial photograph of the wetlands in Maryland's Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area. © © Alan W. Eckert

Change is Here

On the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland, change has already arrived. Many coastal communities are experiencing more frequent flooding, even on sunny days. There are communities that frequently become inaccessible to emergency services as roads are flooded.

Many of these vulnerable communities are surrounded by marshes and coastal forests that provide important wildlife habitat. These coastal ecosystems can also provide important risk reduction benefits; absorbing wave impacts and reducing storm surge and erosion—all accelerated by climate change.

We need healthy coastal ecosystems for the critical services they provide to both nature and people. And we need to make room for these ecosystems to adapt to rising seas and migrate upland into what we call wetland adaptation areas.

Watch: Committed to helping Communities

Deal Island Wave Study The Nature Conservancy is committed to helping communities deal with the impacts of climate change.

We are on the front lines of climate change. Nature can help.

Sensors are installed at a test site on Maryland's Deal Island to measure the differences in wave energy before, during and after storm events.
Coastal Resilience Sensors are installed at a test site on Maryland's Deal Island to measure the differences in wave energy before, during and after storm events. © Severn Smith / The Nature Conservancy

Natural Solutions

Maryland's Deal Island provides a living laboratory for scientists from The Nature Conservancy, George Mason University and Maryland DNR to study how green infrastructure like forests, dunes, and marsh can help reduce the impacts of flooding on this—and other—vulnerable Eastern Shore communities.

In 2018, researchers from TNC and GMU installed sensors along a narrow beach and marsh on Deal Island to gather data for a year-long study. The carefully placed monitors will record how different natural features impact wave energy, and will allow us to quantify their benefits. The research could help planners design strategies that use natural landscapes in erosion and flood prevention.

Natural coastal features such as wetlands and forests play a crucial role as a first line of defense from storms and rising seas across the more than 7,000 miles of Maryland coast. We call these natural features our “green suit of armor.”

Watch: Nature's Role

Maryland's Green Suit of Armor Can nature help reduce the impacts of flooding on vulnerable Eastern Shore communities?
A small community on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland is surrounded by rising waters.
Coastal Communities A small community on the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland is surrounded by rising waters. © Severn Smith / The Nature Conservancy. Aerial support provided by LightHawk.

Implementing Adaptation Strategies

TNC is working across Maryland’s shores to implement climate adaptation strategies. In 2019, we established a Lower Eastern Shore Climate Adaptation Network that brings together leaders from each lower shore county, state agencies, and local and regional experts on coastal resilience, to identify the most pressing challenges for each jurisdiction and work collectively to develop solutions. In 2019, we also protected more than 530 wetland adaptation acres so that our important coastal habitats have the opportunity to persist in the face of climate change.

Contact

Kelly Leo
Resilient Coasts Program Director
email: kleo@tnc.org

Resources

  • Resilient Coasts Program Factsheet

    Helping our coastal communities plan for and adapt to rising seas.

    DOWNLOAD
  • Overview of the statewide coastal resiliency assessment completed in 2016 to inform coastal conservation and restoration decisions.

    Maryland Coastal Resiliency Assessment Factsheet

    The statewide assessment results include a Natural Features Analysis, Community Flood Risk Analysis, Marsh Protection Potential Index, and the identification of Priority Shoreline Areas for conservation or restoration actions.

    DOWNLOAD