Title

Impacts of climate-change-driven sea level rise on intertidal Rocky Reef habitats will be variable and site specific

Document Type

Article

Publication details

Thorner, J, Kumar, L & Smith, SDA 2014, 'Impacts of climate-change-driven sea level rise on intertidal Rocky Reef habitats will be variable and site specific', PLoS One, vol. 9, no.1, e86130.

Article available on Open Access

Peer Reviewed

Peer-Reviewed

Abstract

Intertidal rocky reefs are complex and rich ecosystems that are vulnerable to even the smallest fluctuations in sea level. We modelled habitat loss associated with sea level rise for intertidal rocky reefs using GIS, high-resolution digital imagery, and LIDAR technology at fine-scale resolution (0.1 m per pixel). We used projected sea levels of +0.3 m, +0.5 m and +1.0 m above current Mean Low Tide Level (0.4 m). Habitat loss and changes were analysed for each scenario for five headlands in the Solitary Islands Marine Park (SIMP), Australia. The results indicate that changes to habitat extent will be variable across different shores and will not necessarily result in net loss of area for some habitats. In addition, habitat modification will not follow a regular pattern over the projected sea levels. Two of the headlands included in the study currently have the maximum level of protection within the SIMP. However, these headlands are likely to lose much of the habitat known to support biodiverse assemblages and may not continue to be suitable sanctuaries into the future. The fine-scale approach taken in this study thus provides a protocol not only for modelling habitat modification but also for future proofing conservation measures under a scenario of changing sea levels.