Leading public health organizations, including the American Public Health Association (APHA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization, all consider climate change among the most significant contemporary threats to public health. Longtime efforts of environmental justice (EJ) leaders and scholars clearly document patterns of cumulative environmental exposure and adverse health outcomes by race and income that are exacerbated by climate change. Given public health’s commitment to health equity and social justice, attention to EJ must be central in public health’s climate-related work.
Measuring sustainability awareness and behaviors at the University of Michigan (U-M). Each ring represents a top cultural indicator score of 10 for a range of sustainability knowledge, behavior, and disposition items at U-M. The number inside the ring represents how the campus community did in reaching those goals and changes since 2012. Can you see where YOU helped to close the gap in campus sustainability progress on campus?
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System has identified a need to increase its collective capacity to process and synthesize Surface Elevation Table data and to create visualizations and educational tools for scientists, managers, and the public. This project addresses these needs by developing standardized tools to quality-check Surface Elevation Table data, perform trend analyses, and generate informative visualizations for a variety of technical and non-technical audiences. The team’s collaborative approach to developing statistical methods and outreach products will build both technical expertise and broader understanding of how the data can be used to better understand how sea level rise is impacting marshes.
In recent years, seagrass and mangrove deaths have accelerated in the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and other parts of southern Florida. Sea level rise, climate change, and severe weather (such as hurricanes) place significant stress on these habitats, which are already under pressure from urban development, road construction, boating, and pollution. The loss of these habitats poses a threat to the local economy, as they support the tourism and fishing industries, which drive economic development in local communities. In order to mitigate and reverse the damage to these habitats, Rookery Bay reserve staff are looking for new ways to measure which pressure has the most impact and determine the location and extent of damages. In this project, staff from Rookery Bay Reserve are partnering with researchers at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science to study the degradation of underwater habitats and coastal wetlands.
Tidal wetlands play an important role in carbon sequestration by capturing a substantial amount of carbon—termed “blue carbon”—and storing it below ground. Since the Verified Carbon Standard first released a draft “Methodology for Tidal Wetland and Seagrass Restoration” in 2013, members of the Pacific Northwest Coastal Blue Carbon Working Group have been working to fill blue carbon data gaps to facilitate the application of this methodology to the conservation and restoration of Pacific Northwest tidal wetlands. This includes data collection and database development efforts, such as the Pacific Northwest blue carbon stocks and database project supported by the Science Collaborative.
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System’s Science Collaborative is an important mechanism to support competitive, end user-focused research in the reserve system. The Science Collaborative funds user-driven collaborative research, assessment, and transfer activities that address critical coastal management needs identified by the reserves and has been managed by the University of Michigan (U-M) Water Center since 2015 through a cooperative agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Sea level rise and climate change present major threats to salt marshes nationwide. In an effort to better track and understand their impacts on marsh vegetation and sediment accretion, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System has established Sentinel Sites at reserves around the country. However, most reserves have not yet analyzed their Sentinel Site data, and there has been no attempt to conduct regional syntheses, despite the fact that regional-scale processes can strongly influence marsh vulnerability to sea level rise.
Although drastic global declines in oyster reefs over the past few centuries have resulted in significant native oyster restoration efforts on the United States’ East Coast, the West Coast’s Olympia oyster has received comparatively little attention. The public remains largely unaware of the decline of Olympia oysters and the benefits of restoration, and Olympia oysters have been the subject of relatively few scientific studies and restoration efforts. Although interest in the Olympia oyster has increased over the past decade, and projects are currently underway at a dozen locations along the West Coast, these efforts are disjointed and there is a critical need for greater communication, coordination, and information sharing among scientists and restoration practitioners.
Since Hurricane Sandy battered the New Jersey coastline in 2012, coastal decision makers have been inundated with data, tools, assessment techniques, and planning guidance to help them prepare communities face future extreme storm events. Concurrently, the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance, a network of policymakers, practitioners, academics, non-governmental organizations, and business leaders, designed to build climate change preparedness in New Jersey, requested that Rutgers University convene a panel to identify planning options that coastal managers can use as part of resilience efforts. The panel suggested a framework for communities to apply a “total water level approach,” reflecting user-defined combinations of sea level rise and flood conditions and providing communities with additional flexibility to evaluate a range of flood conditions and time horizons for planning.
In recent years, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System and its partners have become increasingly interested in applying an ecosystem services approach to coastal management. This approach, which considers the benefits that flow from nature to people, has been incorporated into the reserve system’s 2017 to 2022 Strategic Plan, and the federal government is considering ways to incorporate ecosystem services into its decision making. However, there is currently no standardized way to integrate ecosystem services into coastal management and decision-making processes.