March, R.G. and Smith, E.H., 2012. Modeling potential coastal vegetation response to sea level rise and storm surge on estuarine peninsulas.
Upland vegetation changes in response to sea level rise and storm surge were evaluated on two peninsulas adjacent to the Copano Bay–Aransas Bay system and within a semiarid coastal environment in south-central Texas. Potential natural land cover models were created in a geographical information system (GIS) using soil data attributes and elevation data to compare land cover shifts under various sea level rise and storm surge scenarios. Ecological sites used as mapping units were related to land cover classes by generating a classification crosswalk. Crosswalks were expanded in the GIS to define how each land cover type would change with each meter of estuarine inundation using digital elevation models. Potential natural land cover maps show that grassland and/or evergreen are concentrated in the center of both peninsulas with grassland lining the perimeter. Mainland connections of Lamar and Live Oak peninsulas are primarily salty prairie and grassland, respectively. On Lamar Peninsula, a 1-m sea level rise results in a conversion of salty prairie (−99%) to estuarine emergent ( 97%). A total rise of 3 m reduces grassland by 99% and evergreen forest by 71%. A 1-m sea level rise on Live Oak Peninsula eliminates over half of the salty prairie, which becomes estuarine emergent class. These values indicate the vegetation that will at least be temporarily impacted by storm surge. Higher elevations and steeper slopes on Live Oak Peninsula result in lower inundation values for upland habitats as compared with Lamar Peninsula. Sea level rise and storm surge events will continue to be a major influence on vegetative composition in estuarine environments and should be considered in future land use and conservation planning.