Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Coast


Plastic debris in the marine environment is widely documented, but the quantity of plastic entering the ocean from waste generated on land is unknown. By linking worldwide data on solid waste, population density, and economic status, we estimated the mass of land-based plastic waste entering the ocean. We calculate that 275 million metric tons (MT) of plastic waste was generated in 192 coastal countries in 2010, with 4.8 to 12.7 million MT entering the ocean. Population size and the quality of waste management systems largely determine which countries contribute the greatest mass of uncaptured waste available to become plastic marine debris. Without waste management infrastructure improvements, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste available to enter the ocean from land is predicted to increase by an order of magnitude by 2025.

Concepts: Atlantic Ocean, Coast, Pacific Ocean, Sea, Ocean, Marine debris, Waste, Tonne


Climate change and associated sea level rise (SLR) are already impacting low-lying coastal areas, including islands, throughout the world. Many of these areas are inhabited, many will need to be abandoned in coming decades as SLR continues. We examine the evolution (1850-2013) of the last inhabited offshore island in Virginia waters of Chesapeake Bay USA, the Tangier Islands. Three SLR scenarios, a low, mid, and high, were considered. Since 1850, 66.75% of the islands landmass has been lost. Under the mid-range SLR scenario, much of the remaining landmass is expected to be lost in the next 50 years and the Town will likely need to be abandoned. The high SLR scenario will accelerate the land loss and subsidence, such that the Town may need to be abandoned in as few as 25 years. We propose a conceptual plan that would significantly extend the lifespan of the islands and Town.

Concepts: Coast, Climate change, Maryland, Chesapeake Bay, Potomac River, Virginia, Battle of the Chesapeake, Chesapeake Bay Retriever


The current global projections of future sea level rise are the basis for developing inundation hazard maps. However, contributions from spatially variable coastal subsidence have generally not been considered in these projections. We use synthetic aperture radar interferometric measurements and global navigation satellite system data to show subsidence rates of less than 2 mm/year along most of the coastal areas along San Francisco Bay. However, rates exceed 10 mm/year in some areas underlain by compacting artificial landfill and Holocene mud deposits. The maps estimating 100-year inundation hazards solely based on the projection of sea level rise from various emission scenarios underestimate the area at risk of flooding by 3.7 to 90.9%, compared with revised maps that account for the contribution of local land subsidence. Given ongoing land subsidence, we project that an area of 125 to 429 km2will be vulnerable to inundation, as opposed to 51 to 413 km2considering sea level rise alone.

Concepts: Climate, Weather, Coast, Climate change, Interferometry, San Francisco Bay Area, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay


Growing evidence suggests that anthropogenic litter, particularly plastic, represents a highly pervasive and persistent threat to global marine ecosystems. Multinational research is progressing to characterise its sources, distribution and abundance so that interventions aimed at reducing future inputs and clearing extant litter can be developed. Citizen science projects, whereby members of the public gather information, offer a low-cost method of collecting large volumes of data with considerable temporal and spatial coverage. Furthermore, such projects raise awareness of environmental issues and can lead to positive changes in behaviours and attitudes. We present data collected over a decade (2005-2014 inclusive) by Marine Conservation Society (MCS) volunteers during beach litter surveys carried along the British coastline, with the aim of increasing knowledge on the composition, spatial distribution and temporal trends of coastal debris. Unlike many citizen science projects, the MCS beach litter survey programme gathers information on the number of volunteers, duration of surveys and distances covered. This comprehensive information provides an opportunity to standardise data for variation in sampling effort among surveys, enhancing the value of outputs and robustness of findings. We found that plastic is the main constituent of anthropogenic litter on British beaches and the majority of traceable items originate from land-based sources, such as public littering. We identify the coast of the Western English Channel and Celtic Sea as experiencing the highest relative litter levels. Increasing trends over the 10-year time period were detected for a number of individual item categories, yet no statistically significant change in total (effort-corrected) litter was detected. We discuss the limitations of the dataset and make recommendations for future work. The study demonstrates the value of citizen science data in providing insights that would otherwise not be possible due to logistical and financial constraints of running government-funded sampling programmes on such large scales.

Concepts: Time, Statistics, Data, Coast, Beach, Waste, Output, English Channel


Regional warming associated with climate change is linked with altered range and abundance of species and ecosystems worldwide. However, the ecological impacts of changes in the frequency of extreme events have not been as well documented, especially for coastal and marine environments. We used 28 y of satellite imagery to demonstrate that the area of mangrove forests has doubled at the northern end of their historic range on the east coast of Florida. This expansion is associated with a reduction in the frequency of “extreme” cold events (days colder than -4 °C), but uncorrelated with changes in mean annual temperature, mean annual precipitation, and land use. Our analyses provide evidence for a threshold response, with declining frequency of severe cold winter events allowing for poleward expansion of mangroves. Future warming may result in increases in mangrove cover beyond current latitudinal limits of mangrove forests, thereby altering the structure and function of these important coastal ecosystems.

Concepts: Ecology, Precipitation, Climate, Soil, Ecosystem, Coast, Global warming, Mangrove


Simple pebble tools, ephemeral cultural features, and the remains of maritime and terrestrial foods are present in undisturbed Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene deposits underneath a large human-made mound at Huaca Prieta and nearby sites on the Pacific coast of northern Peru. Radiocarbon ages indicate an intermittent human presence dated between ~15,000 and 8000 calendar years ago before the mound was built. The absence of fishhooks, harpoons, and bifacial stone tools suggests that technologies of gathering, trapping, clubbing, and exchange were used primarily to procure food resources along the shoreline and in estuarine wetlands and distant mountains. The stone artifacts are minimally worked unifacial stone tools characteristic of several areas of South America. Remains of avocado, bean, and possibly cultivated squash and chile pepper are also present, suggesting human transport and consumption. Our new findings emphasize an early coastal lifeway of diverse food procurement strategies that suggest detailed observation of resource availability in multiple environments and a knowledgeable economic organization, although technologies were simple and campsites were seemingly ephemeral and discontinuous. These findings raise questions about the pace of early human movement along some areas of the Pacific coast and the level of knowledge and technology required to exploit maritime and inland resources.

Concepts: Human, Coast, Pacific Ocean, Mexico, South America, Chile, Pleistocene, Stone tool


Tidal flooding is among the most tangible present-day effects of global sea level rise. Here, we utilize a set of NOAA tide gauges along the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts to evaluate the potential impact of future sea level rise on the frequency and severity of tidal flooding. Using the 2001-2015 time period as a baseline, we first determine how often tidal flooding currently occurs. Using localized sea level rise projections based on the Intermediate-Low, Intermediate-High, and Highest projections from the U.S. National Climate Assessment, we then determine the frequency and extent of such flooding at these locations for two near-term time horizons: 2030 and 2045. We show that increases in tidal flooding will be substantial and nearly universal at the 52 locations included in our analysis. Long before areas are permanently inundated, the steady creep of sea level rise will force many communities to grapple with chronic high tide flooding in the next 15 to 30 years.

Concepts: Sea level, Oceanography, Coast, Moon, Tide, Storm surge, Nautical chart


Sea-level rise is beginning to cause increased inundation of many low-lying coastal areas. While most of Earth’s coastal areas are at risk, areas that will be affected first are characterized by several additional factors. These include regional oceanographic and meteorological effects and/or land subsidence that cause relative sea level to rise faster than the global average. For catastrophic coastal flooding, when wind-driven storm surge inundates large areas, the relative contribution of sea-level rise to the frequency of these events is difficult to evaluate. For small scale “nuisance flooding,” often associated with high tides, recent increases in frequency are more clearly linked to sea-level rise and global warming. While both types of flooding are likely to increase in the future, only nuisance flooding is an early indicator of areas that will eventually experience increased catastrophic flooding and land loss. Here we assess the frequency and location of nuisance flooding along the eastern seaboard of North America. We show that vertical land motion induced by recent anthropogenic activity and glacial isostatic adjustment are contributing factors for increased nuisance flooding. Our results have implications for flood susceptibility, forecasting and mitigation, including management of groundwater extraction from coastal aquifers.

Concepts: Water, Oceanography, Coast, Geology, Flood, Tide, Storm surge, Thames Barrier


Given their relatively small area, mangroves and their organic sediments are of disproportionate importance to global carbon sequestration and carbon storage. Peat deposition and preservation allows some mangroves to accrete vertically and keep pace with sea-level rise by growing on their own root remains. In this study we show that mangroves in desert inlets in the coasts of the Baja California have been accumulating root peat for nearly 2,000 y and harbor a belowground carbon content of 900-34,00 Mg C/ha, with an average value of 1,130 (± 128) Mg C/ha, and a belowground carbon accumulation similar to that found under some of the tallest tropical mangroves in the Mexican Pacific coast. The depth-age curve for the mangrove sediments of Baja California indicates that sea level in the peninsula has been rising at a mean rate of 0.70 mm/y (± 0.07) during the last 17 centuries, a value similar to the rates of sea-level rise estimated for the Caribbean during a comparable period. By accreting on their own accumulated peat, these desert mangroves store large amounts of carbon in their sediments. We estimate that mangroves and halophyte scrubs in Mexico’s arid northwest, with less than 1% of the terrestrial area, store in their belowground sediments around 28% of the total belowground carbon pool of the whole region.

Concepts: Water, Coast, Arithmetic mean, California, Pacific Ocean, Mexico, Carbon capture and storage, Mangrove


Coastal risks are increasing from both development and climate change. Interest is growing in the protective role that coastal nature-based measures (or green infrastructure), such as reefs and wetlands, can play in adapting to these risks. However, a lack of quantitative information on their relative costs and benefits is one principal factor limiting their use more broadly. Here, we apply a quantitative risk assessment framework to assess coastal flood risk (from climate change and economic exposure growth) across the United States Gulf of Mexico coast to compare the cost effectiveness of different adaptation measures. These include nature-based (e.g. oyster reef restoration), structural or grey (e.g., seawalls) and policy measures (e.g. home elevation). We first find that coastal development will be a critical driver of risk, particularly for major disasters, but climate change will cause more recurrent losses through changes in storms and relative sea level rise. By 2030, flooding will cost $134-176.6 billion (for different economic growth scenarios), but as the effects of climate change, land subsidence and concentration of assets in the coastal zone increase, annualized risk will more than double by 2050 with respect to 2030. However, from the portfolio we studied, the set of cost-effective adaptation measures (with benefit to cost ratios above 1) could prevent up to $57-101 billion in losses, which represents 42.8-57.2% of the total risk. Nature-based adaptation options could avert more than $50 billion of these costs, and do so cost effectively with average benefit to cost ratios above 3.5. Wetland and oyster reef restoration are found to be particularly cost-effective. This study demonstrates that the cost effectiveness of nature-based, grey and policy measures can be compared quantitatively with one another, and that the cost effectiveness of adaptation becomes more attractive as climate change and coastal development intensifies in the future. It also shows that investments in nature-based adaptation could meet multiple objectives for environmental restoration, adaptation and flood risk reduction.

Concepts: Costs, Risk, United States, Economics, Coast, Risk assessment, Gulf Coast of the United States, Flood