Why coastal flood maps are wrong: the tale of compound hazards

Coastal flooding is expected to increase in frequency due to future sea level rise and more extreme weather, but most coastal flood hazards maps do not portray the increase risk. We dive deeper into how these maps are made and uncover why the current flood hazard maps may be misleading.

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The hidden value of coral reefs

Coral reefs act as natural breakwaters reducing wave energy along coasts and, thus, can mitigate flooding. Reef structures currently avert more than $4 billion of flood damage annually. The viability of coral reefs is threatened by rising ocean temperatures, changing seawater chemistry, and physical anthropogenic disturbances. The expected damages to coastal infrastructure from flooding would at least double if reef height is reduced by only one meter. The reduction in flood protection services underscores the importance of investments in reef management, protection, and restoration.

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It’s getting hotter in here: outlining strategies for protecting public health during heat waves

Heat waves, or prolonged periods of abnormally warm temperatures, have become increasingly common throughout the globe as a result of climate change. Since heat waves pose a risk to public health they have become a growing concern, particularly in urban environments. A recent analysis led by Gertrud Hatvani-Kovacs at the University of South Australia, outlines strategies for protecting public health during heat waves and mitigating the impacts of heat waves by instituting new policies. Among the suggestions of Hatvani-Kovacs and her colleagues are increasing the dissemination of information to the public regarding heat waves, providing guidelines for heat stress resistant building design, building public cool spaces, and introducing tariffs on water and electricity usage during peak demand.

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Feeling Salty About Climate Change? So Are Coastal Wetlands.

Coastal wetlands are disappearing fast – at a rate of >80,000 acres/year and rising. There are many threats to these ecosystems, one of which is “saltwater intrusion” – when saltwater is introduced into fresh bodies of water. A recent study looked at the effects of saltwater intrusion by mimicking the increased salinity experienced on a short-term basis (a hurricane) versus a long-term basis (sea level rise). The authors found that chronic saltwater intrusion had many impacts on water quality, microbial activity, greenhouse gas production, and vegetation in a tidal freshwater marsh in Georgia.

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What’s a Forest Without Trees?

Trees are one of the most important natural resources: they consume carbon dioxide and provide us with oxygen, building materials, and fuel. However, global forest degradation exceeds the total CO2 emissions in the US for both highway vehicles (1.7 Gt CO2e/year) and power generation (1.9 Gt CO2e/year)! A new study discusses the difference between deforestation and forest degradation and why it’s essential to account for both in greenhouse gas emissions management.

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Conserve the Lobster

Caught between a rock and a hard place. The American lobster has become the largest fishery in the United States. American lobster populations are increasing in the Gulf of Maine. However, pressures of climate change and harvest have virtually eliminated the fishery from Southern New England. Work done by Le Bris et al uncover the differences between the two locations and determine that active conservation efforts in the Gulf of Maine have permitted the crustacean to remain even with increased water temperatures and fishing.

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Mismatches between biodiversity research and policy needs – how can anyone compete with climate change?

If you would conduct a quick poll among the next twenty people you meet and ask them what they think the most important cause of global biodiversity loss is, there’s a good chance you would get a lot of the same two-word answer: climate change. In the English-speaking world today, there are few anthropogenic threats that appear in the news as often as often as climate change. While climate change is undeniably an important driver of biodiversity changes worldwide, there’s a risk that other equally important drivers have ended up too far from the scientific spotlight.

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