CR 14:235-244 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/cr014235

Climate change and ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic Region

Catriona E. Rogers1,*, John P. McCarty2,3

1National Center for Environmental Assessment, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, DC 20460, USA
2AAAS Science and Engineering Fellow, US EPA, Washington, DC 20460, USA
3Biology Department, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA
*E-mail: 1The National Assessment, which is being conducted by the US Global Change Research Program, is mandated by the Global Change Research Act of 1990. For further information, see

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the current status of forested, wetland, freshwater and coastal ecosystems; the combined impacts of habitat alteration, pollution and non-native invasive species on those systems; how climatic changes could interact with existing stresses; potential management strategies, and crucial research gaps. Changes in climate and climate variability would significantly affect natural ecosystems, and may pose additional threats to the already-stressed ecosystems of the Mid-Atlantic Region (MAR). Fragmentation of the MAR¹s forests may hinder the migration of some species. Urban development and wetland losses leave the MAR¹s rivers and streams and near-shore areas vulnerable to damages if the frequency and intensity of storms increase. Inputs of sediments, nutrients and toxic chemicals to streams, lakes and estuaries might increase if precipitation increases. Accelerated sea-level rise could accelerate the loss of coastal wetlands. Estuaries are sensitive to changes in temperature, salinity and nutrient loads, and could be adversely affected by projected climatic changes. Populations of rare, native species could decline, while problems with non-native invasive species, such as kudzu and gypsy moths, might increase. The best strategies to protect ecosystems from climatic changes may be those that reduce other stresses, thus increasing resilience to a variety of stresses. Societal priorities for ecosystem protection need to be articulated, and research is needed into the values of ecosystems, ecosystem functioning, human impacts, long-term ecological monitoring, and management options to provide a basis for selecting effective measures.

KEY WORDS: Ecosystems · Societal values · Climate change · Mid-Atlantic Regional Assessment · Ecological

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