CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – More than half of the American public lives within 50 miles of a beach, but as sea levels rise, the coastal habitats that protect our communities are increasingly at risk. Dr. David Yoskowitz, Associate Director and Endowed Chair for Socioeconomics at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI), has joined a team of NOAA researchers to better understand the socio-economic impact rising sea levels could have on coastal communities.
The NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science is funding the $1.2 million project, led by Dr. Scott C. Hagen, Professor and director of the Louisiana State University Center for Coastal Resiliency. Other collaborators include the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, the University of Central Florida, and the University of South Carolina. The work is the latest in a series of projects HRI has undertaken to help better understand the impacts of sea level rise in the Gulf of Mexico.
Finding ways to measure and better communicate the economic and social benefits of the environment to the public will be Yoskowitz’s focus during the project. His research will enhance and extend existing large-scale, high-definition computer models, as well as link economic impact and the value of ecosystem services to the coastal dynamics of sea level rise. Ecosystem services are the tangible and intangible benefits people gain from the environment.
“Understanding ecosystem services is important for defining the myriad of ways that humans will be affected by sea level rise,” Yoskowitz said. “Habitats like marshes provide coastal buffers against storm surge, dampening the impacts to communities on shore, but that’s only one of many benefits marshes provide. They’re also productive nursery grounds for marine species. For example, they produce the next generation of key fishery species, supporting recreational anglers and attracts wildlife.”
Yoskowitz’s research will allow him to view how future storm surges may affect the economy and social fabric of coastal communities when protective marshes are impacted by sea level rise.
“If you want to change policy, you have to make sea level rise tangible to your next-door neighbor. Why should they care?” said Yoskowitz. “We’ve done a lot of work researching the effects of sea level rise, but one of the things we haven’t really done well is connecting these impacts back to humans.”
Yoskowitz, working in collaboration with three other HRI researchers, is also currently engaged in the most comprehensive sea level rise assessment ever performed in Texas. The project, titled “Living with Sea Level Rise in Texas,” aims to provide Texans with information needed to understand and adapt to higher sea levels within the next 50-100 years. Areas of research include understanding socio-economics, coastal community building policies and projecting future sea level through the use of Geographic Information Systems.For more information on HRI sea level rise research, visit https://www.harteresearchinstitute.org/collaboration/living-sea-level-rise-texas.