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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

New Publication: Tipping Points of Coastal Fish, Wildlife, and Plants

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Mottled duck. Photo: Dick Daniels

New study looks at ecological “tipping points” for coastal species to help manage for change

Coastal systems like salt marshes, mangrove forests, and barrier beaches are home to a diversity of wildlife species, such as whooping crane, Eastern oyster and American black duck.

These species are important parts of functional ecosystems that contribute a host of economic, recreational and cultural benefits to people and communities. For example, the Eastern oyster is a cornerstone of a lucrative shellfish industry, filters water as it feeds, and helps stabilize the shoreline by creating reefs. Healthy coastal marshes are the nursery areas for fish species that support critical recreational and commercial coastal fisheries. 

Some species also play an instructive role as indicators of environmental changes that can threaten coastal systems that people and wildlife depend upon. These indicator species may experience "ecological thresholds" - the tipping points at which changing environmental conditions will lead to a disruption in a species life cycle or habitat. By looking at ecological thresholds for key species, we can better prepare for and respond to threats that can affect their homes - and ours.

A team of scientists from the USGS and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collaborated to synthesize existing information on ecological thresholds related to environmental changes, including sea-level rise and coastal storms, for 45 species of coastal fish, wildlife, and plants selected because of their ecological, economic and cultural importance.

Published in Ocean & Coastal Management, their new paper “A synthesis of thresholds for focal species along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts” offers insights on strategies for managing coastal resources to help managers make the most effective decisions today to protect natural systems that sustain wildlife and the health and well being of people and communities.  Read More on the North Atlantic LCC webpage >>


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