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Title: Forest Loss is Accelerating Along the US Gulf Coast

Sea-level rise is impacting the longest undeveloped stretch of coastline in the contiguous United States: The Florida Big Bend. Due to its low elevation and a higher-than-global-average local rate of sea-level rise, the region is losing coastal forest to encroaching marsh at an unprecedented rate. Previous research found a rate of forest-to-marsh conversion of up to 1.2 km2 year−1during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but these studies evaluated small-scale changes, suffered from data gaps, or are substantially outdated. We replicated and updated these studies with Landsat satellite imagery covering the entire Big Bend region from 2003 to 2016 and corroborated results with in situ landscape photography and high-resolution aerial imagery. Our analysis of satellite and aerial images from 2003 to 2016 indicates a rate of approximately 10 km2 year−1representing an increase of over 800%. Areas previously found to be unaffected by the decline are now in rapid retreat.

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Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Estuaries and Coasts
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 913-919
Springer Science + Business Media
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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