Sea level rise impacts on rural coastal social-ecological systems and the implications for decision making

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Many rural coastal regions are distinctly vulnerable to sea level rise because of their remoteness, isolation from central planning agencies, and poverty. To better plan for future sea level changes in these regions, an interdisciplinary approach to assess the social and environmental impacts of sea level rise and their dynamic feedbacks is important. In this paper, we use a socio-ecological system framework to investigate sea level rise impacts to the Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula, a rural, low-lying coastal region in eastern North Carolina. Specifically, we show that 42% of the region could be inundated and property losses of up to US $14 billion could be incurred with 100 cm of sea level rise. We also synthesize the impacts of sea level rise on the region's social-ecological system and present strategies to strengthen the adaptive capacity of the ecosystem, markets and communities. We conclude with a discussion on the differing climate change risk perceptions amongst the stakeholders as well as implications for decision-making. Sea level rise will continue to threaten the functioning of this social-ecological system of rural, low-lying coastal communities. A socio-ecological system framework provides a lens through which the impacts of sea level rise can be evaluated for rural, low-lying coastal communities. The framework presented here necessitates interdisciplinary research and highlights the importance of mutual learning amongst stakeholders in other rural coastal regions.




Bhattachan, A., Jurjonas, M. D., Moody, A. C., Morris, P. R., Sanchez, G. M., Smart, L. S., … Seekamp, E. L. (2018, December 1). Sea level rise impacts on rural coastal social-ecological systems and the implications for decision making. Environmental Science and Policy. Elsevier Ltd.

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