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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Final Report for Critical Thresholds and Ecosystem Services for Coastal Ecological and Human Climate Adaptation


Michelle Staudinger

Emily Powell

Andrew Milliken

Megan Tyrell

Publication Type:
Year of Publication:
July 2017


Understanding how climate change will impact natural and human communities is a crucial part of decision making and management related to the protection of our coasts. As the effects of climate change on ecological communities grow, the possibility of crossing tipping points or thresholds of viability increases the potential for rapid and possibly irreversible changes in ecosystems. Therefore, understanding thresholds related to climate change is critical for facilitating conservation and management actions, which could help to prevent more costly and possibly catastrophic effects in the future. As part of a broad effort to synthesize and deliver coastal resilience information through the Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), Climate Science Centers, states, and other partners along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, we synthesized existing quantitative threshold information for 45 priority coastal fish, wildlife, and plant species and habitats in response to sea level rise and storm projections. Additional information was synthesized on climate change adaptation actions that can increase the persistence and resilience of species and their habitats and how these actions relate to human community resilience. In addition to two peer-reviewed manuscripts, results from these synthesis efforts were disseminated online through easily accessible, topic-specific web pages in the Massachusetts Wildlife Climate Action Tool ( to make this information more easily accessible to stakeholders across the region. The compilation and dissemination of species and habitat threshold information will help to develop a more comprehensive understanding of how natural systems will respond to climate change and how land and resource management decisions could potentially help these species.