Skip to main content

Climate change impacts on erosion, mass wasting, and the supply of sediment to tidal wetlands in the Northeast


Climate change is likely to impact erosion rates, the magnitude and frequency of extreme rainfall/mass wasting events, and the accumulation of sediment in coastal areas. However, long-term rates of erosion and sediment delivery to coastal systems are poorly constrained and there is limited understanding of the relative effects of climate change versus land-use change on these processes. Furthermore, existing instrumental and historical observations are inadequate for constraining the frequency of extreme events and evaluating the potential for changes in the magnitude and frequency of these events through time.

This project will bolster two distinct but related research projects: (1) an ongoing study by Jonathan Woodruff and Brian Yellen investigating the vulnerability of tidal marshes in the northeastern US to ongoing sea level rise and the impacts of climate and land use change on the supply of sediment from upstream tributaries to these wetland systems, and (2) an ongoing investigation of climatic control of long-term changes in upland erosion and the frequency of flood induced mass-wasting in the northeastern US by Timothy Cook.  This project will build off of a pre-existing NOAA National Estuarine Research Reserve System Science Collaborative supported project to evaluate the impact of dam-impounded sediments on wetland sustainability in the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve (HRNERR). The additional NE CASC funds allows for graduate involvement in this project and provide support for linking the HRNERR project with a separate study by co-PI Tim Cook who, as a 2018-2019 Charles Bullard Fellowship at Harvard Forest, is evaluating climatic and land use impacts on sediment yields for the Northeast Region.


AGU, Findings from impoundment sediments. December, 2018.
Stakeholder Workshop : Climate change impacts on erosion, mass wasting, and the supply of sediment to tidal wetlands in the Northeast. Norrie Point Field Station, Livingston Mills, NY.  June 4, 2018. 
Cook, T., Northeastern Section of the Geological Society of America, March, 2019
Yellen, B. Hudson River Environmental Symposium, May 2019.
Cook, T., Wolman Club Annual Meeting, Lancaster, PA, June 2019.
Ralston D., Yellen, B., Woodruff, J., Impacts of dam removals on sediment supply, transport, and deposition in the Hudson River estuary, Coastal Estuarine Research Federation Bienniel Conference, Mobile, AL,  Nov., 2019   
Ralston, D., Yellen, B., Woodruff, J., Fernald, S., Ladlow, C., Ferguson, O., Cooper, E., In the tidal Hudson River, sediment from dam removals has little impact on turbidity or marsh resilience, and many marshes are currently growing faster than SLR, National Estuarine Research Reserve System Annual Meeting, Nov., 2019 
Dams and Sediment on the Hudson (DASH) Advisory Meeting and Workshop (led by UMASS/WHOI team), Nov., 2019, Norrie Point, Saatsburg, NY (~30 participants)
Climate Ready Boston (Greater Boston Research Advisory Group Report), Feb. 13, 2020 advisory group meeting discussing preliminary results for chapter on sea level rise and flooding co-authored by DeConto, Woodruff, Baranes (NE CASC fellow), Halberstadt (NE CASC Fellow) 
MA Salt Marsh working group and heading up sediment dynamics sub-group (Feb 10)
+5 more


Contributing Author, (2019), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), Chapter 4: Sea Level Rise and Implications for Low Lying Islands, Coasts and Communities, Cambridge University Press

Climate Ready Boston (Greater Boston Research Advisory Group (gBRAG)), Contributing Author on Chapter on Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding, 2019-Present