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Coastal Lagoons and Climate Change: Ecological and Social Ramifications in U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ecosystems

Abigail Anthony, University of Rhode Island
Joshua Atwood, University of Rhode Island
Peter August, University of Rhode Island
Carrie Byron, University of Rhode Island
Stanley Cobb, University of Rhode Island
Cheryl Foster, University of Rhode Island
Crystal Fry, University of Rhode Island
Arthur Gold, University of Rhode Island
Kifle Hagos, University of Rhode Island
Leanna Heffner, University of Rhode Island
D. Q Kellogg, University of Rhode Island
Kimberly Lellis-Dibble, University of Rhode Island
James J Opaluch, University of Rhode Island
Candace Oviatt, University of Rhode Island
Anna Pfeiffer-Herbert, University of Rhode Island
Nicole Rohr, University of Rhode Island
Leslie Smith, University of Rhode Island
Tiffany Smythe
Judith Swift, University of Rhode Island
Nathan Vinhateiro, University of Rhode Island


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Lagoons are highly productive coastal features that provide a range of natural services that society values. Their setting within the coastal landscape leaves them especially vulnerable to profound physical, ecological, and associated societal disturbance from global climate change. Expected shifts in physical and ecological characteristics range from changes in flushing regime, freshwater inputs, and water chemistry to complete inundation and loss and the concomitant loss of natural and human communities. Therefore, managing coastal lagoons in the context of global climate change is critical. Although management approaches will vary depending on local conditions and cultural norms, all management scenarios will need to be nimble and to make full use of the spectrum of values through which society views these unique ecosystems. We propose that this spectrum includes pragmatic, scholarly, aesthetic, and tacit categories of value. Pragmatic values such as fishery or tourism revenue are most easily quantified and are therefore more likely to be considered in management strategies. In contrast, tacit values such as a sense of place are more difficult to quantify and therefore more likely to be left out of explicit management justifications. However, tacit values are the most influential to stakeholder involvement because they both derive from and shape individual experiences and beliefs. Tacit values underpin all categories of social values that we describe and can be expected to have a strong influence over human behavior. The articulation and inclusion of the full spectrum of values, especially tacit values, will facilitate and support nimble adaptive management of coastal lagoon ecosystems in the context of global climate change.

Key words

climate change; coastal lagoons; ecosystems; social values

Copyright © 2009 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087