NPS Coastal Vulnerability and Adaptation

Changing global temperatures will have numerous repercussions on our planet, including drastic climatic changes and sea-level rise. Even a minor increase in sea level will have significant effects on coastal environments, including those within national parks. In hopes to begin addressing these issues, the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University (WCU) has partnered with the National Park Service (NPS) to identify resources and infrastructure at risk to rising sea levels and the long-term adaptation strategies associated with that risk. 

The first phase of this collaborative project is focused on identifying all NPS assets that may be threatened by a future 1m rise in sea level, within 41 coastal park units. This element of the project utilizes an existing database (NPS Facility Management Software System) containing a comprehensive list of assets within each of the park units. The primary objective of this analysis is to locate each asset geospatially and then indentify its approximate elevation. Although this seems relatively straightforward, there are over 10,000 assets within these 41 coastal units. Therefore, a variety of methods are being used to complete this analysis, including collaboration with park staff and visits to manually locate assets. 

The second phase of the project is to create a manual containing long-term sea-level rise adaptation strategies. This manual will include a complete list of options for adaptation that a park manager or decision maker may use when an asset or resource becomes at-risk. Included with each option will be real-world examples and the advantages and disadvantages (both economic and environmental) associated with that particular strategy. This project will allow park managers to better understand vulnerability to long-term sea-level rise and, therefore, make more informed decisions on appropriate options for adaptation.

41 Coastal Parks:

Example of data collected during park visit from Padre Island National Seashore. Figure on left (below) shows a section of Padre Island with the LiDAR data (DEM) and the location of assets (black dots). The figure on the right (below) shows the aerial imagery of the same location with the assets color coded for elevation.



Point Reyes National Seashore

Tomales Bay & San Andreas Fault

Schooner Bay

Historic Lifeboat Station

Tomales Bay


Fire Island National Seashore 

Watch Hill

Picnic Area

View from Lighthouse

View of Boardwalk from Lighhouse



Cumberland Island National Seashore 

Cumberland Sound

Cumberland Ferry Dock

Dungeness Ruins

Dungeness Mansion Ruins


Gateway National Recreation Area

Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island Unit

Silver Gull Beach Club, Jamaica Bay Unit
Sandy Hook Bay, Sandy Hook Unit
Jacob Riis Park, Jamaica Bay Unit




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