National Park Service Coastal Adaptation Strategies Handbook

The National Park Service (NPS) has developed the Coastal Adaptation Strategies Handbook to support coastal area park responses to the climate change effects associated with coastal storms and sea level rise. This handbook reviews climate change impacts on coastal parks; identifies useful resources and adaptation strategies; provides examples of approaches to address coastal vulnerabilities from NPS as an agency and for individual parks, and offers policy and decision-making guidelines. The report provides guidance for NPS managers, partners, and other practitioners in selecting and implementing climate change adaptation strategies in estuarine and coastal areas, including the Great Lakes.

The National Park Service protects natural resources, cultural resources, and facilities in over 120 parks and over 12,000 miles of shoreline currently experience effects from climate change - including reduced water levels in the Great Lakes, sea level rise, changing storm patterns, melting permafrost, saltwater intrusion, ocean acidification, inundation during coastal storms, and the impacts of changing temperature and precipitation regimes. NPS has determined that climate change will amplify the existing dynamic nature of coastal and shoreline areas, threatening park resources, infrastructure, and public recreational opportunities.

The NPS planning framework is outlined, along with emerging work focused on scenario planning and climate-smart strategies. Further information on lessons learned from incident response and recovery is included in “Chapter 9 Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy.”

A 'Policy' chapter details relevant procedures and policies in place to consider in adaptive management planning. Where natural resources or processes have been disrupted by human activities, NPS policy permits park managers to take action as necessary and feasible to protect, restore, or otherwise conserve the disrupted resources or processes. 

Chapter 4 - 'Natural Resources' focuses on the natural resources of the dynamic coastal zone. It includes an overview of science and tools to support adaptation and a discussion of how to handle uncertainty. The "Tools for Climate Change Adaptation of Coastal Resources and Assets" section summarizes some of the applied processes and available resources for climate change adaptation at coastal parks. 

The NPS also preserves many archeological sites, historic and prehistoric buildings and structures, cultural landscapes, museum collections, and the environments and places that support traditional and indigenous lives and legacies.  Adaptation for cultural resources is discussed in Chapter 5, with approaches to address climate impacts on cultural resources and to engage with the inherent information these resources contain.

The adverse and beneficial impacts of coastal engineering structures are detailed in Chapter 8 - 'Protecting Infrastructure: Costs and Impacts.' The options outlined in this chapter include strategies for shoreline stabilization, coastal restoration, living shorelines, and other coastal engineering options. Sample construction costs are included to help inform initial project statements for technical assistance or initial funding.


Publication Date: October 31, 2016

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