Climate Change Effects on Intertidal and Subtidal Environments Impacts, Projections, and Management

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Climate Change and Estuaries


Intertidal and subtidal environments occupy the land and sea interface and are highly susceptible to the influence of human-induced climate change and other drivers of change on both marine and terrestrial processes. As sea-level has an overwhelming influence on estuary evolution and geomorphology, sea-level rise is likely to have a profound impact on the structure and function of intertidal environments and, together with other climate change drivers, will also influence temperature and water quality. Changes in temperature and water quality will be greater in subtidal environments, although they are also modified by sea-level rise. The influence of sea-level rise on intertidal and subtidal environments can be conceptualized by considering the negative feedback between sedimentation, organic matter addition, autocompaction, subsidence, sea-level rise, and accommodation space. Other climate change drivers, such as increasing air and sea surface temperatures, extreme events, and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, will interact with and amplify the effects of sea-level rise. Similarly, direct human impacts on estuaries, including engineering projects and nutrient enrichment, can modulate the effects of climate change. Reducing the impacts of humans and restoring intertidal and subtidal structure and function will provide opportunities to enhance coastal adaptation, ecosystem resilience, and ecosystem services.

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