Coastal Resilience Issue

Beach erosion. Photo © Mike Timberlake

Beach erosion. Photo © Mike Timberlake


Around the world, coastal towns and cities are seeking ways to adapt to the imminent threats associated with climate change, particularly sea level rise and increasing storm activity. These forces will cause flooding and inundation of shoreline areas, posing a threat to

  • human safety
  • infrastructure such as buildings and roads
  • natural habitats, species, and ecosystems

In the United States, municipal governments have much of the responsibility for adapting to climate change using land-use zoning and other planning, management, and regulatory mechanisms that occur at the local scale.

Identifying the Need for DSS

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has been active for many years on Long Island and throughout New York state, interacting closely with local and state-level government and community groups. Despite a growing recognition of the reality of sea level rise and its associated hazards, most local communities lack capacity for climate-change adaptation. Little action has been taken to enhance safety and to protect infrastructure and natural resources from climate-related impacts. Without a centralized, online location to visualize the impacts and to identify alternative scenarios for confronting them, it has been difficult to begin integrating sea level rise and coastal hazards into natural resource protection and coordinated land use management. The purpose of the Coastal Resilience project was to provide local communities with easy access to this central web mapping application and to enable them to understand spatial relationships among ecological, social and economic factors in the geographic area.

Role of the DSS

The Coastal Resilience DSS is intended for town- or regional-scale planning. It is intended to complement management planning processes (i.e., comprehensive and post-storm redevelopment plans), permitting, and regulation at the site- or parcel-level where the spatial resolution is comparable to the jurisdiction or geographic area.