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Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5290

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service

Estimates of Future Inundation of Salt Marshes in Response to Sea–Level Rise in and Around Acadia National Park, Maine

By Martha G. Nielsen and Robert W. Dudley

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (6.27 MB)Abstract

Salt marshes are ecosystems that provide many important ecological functions in the Gulf of Maine. The U.S. Geological Survey investigated salt marshes in and around Acadia National Park from Penobscot Bay to the Schoodic Peninsula to map the potential for landward migration of marshes using a static inundation model of a sea-level rise scenario of 60 centimeters (cm; 2 feet). The resulting inundation contours can be used by resource managers to proactively adapt to sea-level rise by identifying and targeting low-lying coastal areas adjacent to salt marshes for conservation or further investigation, and to identify risks to infrastructure in the coastal zone. For this study, the mapping of static inundation was based on digital elevation models derived from light detection and ranging (LiDAR) topographic data collected in October 2010. Land-surveyed control points were used to evaluate the accuracy of the LiDAR data in the study area, yielding a root mean square error of 11.3 cm. An independent accuracy assessment of the LiDAR data specific to salt-marsh land surfaces indicated a root mean square error of 13.3 cm and 95-percent confidence interval of ± 26.0 cm. LiDAR-derived digital elevation models and digital color aerial photography, taken during low tide conditions in 2008, with a pixel resolution of 0.5 meters, were used to identify the highest elevation of the land surface at each salt marsh in the study area. Inundation contours for 60-cm of sea-level rise were delineated above the highest marsh elevation for each marsh. Confidence interval contours (95-percent, ± 26.0 cm) were delineated above and below the 60-cm inundation contours, and artificial structures, such as roads and bridges, that may present barriers to salt-marsh migration were mapped.

This study delineated 114 salt marshes totaling 340 hectares (ha), ranging in size from 0.11 ha (marshes less than 0.2 ha were mapped only if they were on Acadia National Park property) to 52 ha, with a median size of 1.0 ha. Inundation contours were mapped at 110 salt marshes. Approximately 350 ha of low-lying upland areas adjacent to these marshes will be inundated with 60 cm of sea-level rise. Many of these areas are currently freshwater wetlands. There are potential barriers to marsh migration at 27 of the 114 marshes. Although only 23 percent of the salt marshes in the study are on ANP property, about half of the upland areas that will be inundated are within ANP; most of the predicted inundated uplands (approximately 170 ha) include freshwater wetlands in the Northeast Creek and Bass Harbor Marsh areas. Most of the salt marshes analyzed do not have a significant amount of upland area available for migration. Seventy-five percent of the salt marshes have 20 meters or less of adjacent upland that would be inundated along most of their edges. All inundation contours, salt marsh locations, potential barriers, and survey data are stored in geospatial files for use in a geographic information system and are a part of this report.

First posted April 29, 2013

For additional information contact:
Office Chief
U.S. Geological Survey
New England Water Science Center
Maine Office
196 Whitten Road
Augusta, ME 04330
(207) 622-8201

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Suggested citation:

Nielsen, M.G., and Dudley, R.W., 2013, Estimates of future inundation of salt marshes in response to sea–level rise in and around Acadia National Park, Maine: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2012–5290, 20 p., at




Land-Surface Elevation Data

Estimated Future Inundation Resulting from Sea-Level Rise at Salt Marshes

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix 1. Geospatial data of salt marshes, inundation contours, and surveying data in and near Acadia National Park, Maine

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