2021 journal article

Cultural ecosystem services caught in a 'coastal squeeze' between sea level rise and urban expansion


By: L. Smart n, J. Vukomanovic n, E. Sills n & G. Sanchez n

author keywords: Coastal environmental change; Cultural ecosystem services; FUTURES; InVEST; Participatory modeling; Sea level rise
Source: Web Of Science
Added: March 15, 2021

Sea level rise and urbanization exert complex synergistic pressures on the provision of ecosystem services (ES) in coastal regions. Anticipating when and where both biophysical and cultural ES will be affected by these two types of coastal environmental change is critical for sustainable land-use planning and management. Biophysical (provisioning and regulating) services can be mapped using secondary data. We demonstrate an approach to mapping cultural ES by engaging stakeholders in iterative participatory mapping of personally and communally valuable cultural ES. We identify hotspots where highly valued cultural ES and high values for biophysical ES co-occur and generate spatially-explicit projections of sea level rise and urban expansion through 2060 to quantify impacts of the ‘coastal squeeze’ on ES. We study Johns Island, South Carolina, USA as an example of a vulnerable community in a low-lying region experiencing both rising water levels and a rapid influx of new residents and development. Our projections of environmental change through 2060 indicate that on Johns Island, cultural ES face disproportionately greater risk of decline than biophysical ES, with almost three quarters of the island’s cultural ES affected. We find that hotspots for cultural ES, such as community heritage sites and scenic vistas of oak-lined roads and marshes, rarely co-occur (only 3% area) with biophysical ES such as high values of carbon sequestration and agricultural production. This confirms the importance of engaging with local stakeholders to map cultural ES and puts them on a more level playing field with biophysical ES in decision-making contexts. Projected declines and limited overlap between biophysical and cultural ES highlight the need for tighter coordination between conservation and community planning, and for including locally valued cultural ES in assessments of threats posed by the ‘coastal squeeze’ of sea level rise and urban expansion.