Texas Mid-Coast’s Unique Environment, Economy Need Decisive Action to Combat Climate-Related Threats

Ecosystem-Based Investments Could Help the Region Beat End-of-Century Projections

AUSTIN, Texas — The prized and productive wetlands, bays, and estuaries of the Texas Mid-Coast require decisive policy interventions to defend against multiple climate-related threats, according to new analysis from the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Coast and Water Program. 

While the study indicates the coast is changing at an accelerating pace, the authors emphasize end-of-century projections are non-static and adaptive solutions such as ecosystem-based investments this decade could help combat emerging threats and build resilience across the region.

“The data shows the Texas Mid-Coast’s unique estuarine ecosystems, growing population, and critical economic sectors are all under significant threat from climate change,” said Dr. Arsum Pathak, lead author of the study and Adaptation and Coastal Resilience Specialist at the National Wildlife Federation’s Texas Coast and Water Program. “This report provides a first-ever detailed analysis of what the latest climate projections mean for this region and how we can build its resilience moving forward. With another active Atlantic Hurricane season set to start June 1, now is the time for local and state decision-makers to utilize these findings, escalate adaptation and restoration priorities, and protect this treasured region.”

Localized projections indicate population centers and ecosystems in the six counties of the Mid-Coast region—Aransas, Calhoun, Jackson, Matagorda, Refugio, and Victoria—face significant inter-related challenges exacerbated by climate change: 

  • Land subsidence from oil, gas, and groundwater extraction means relative sea level rise is projected to be measurably higher in the region compared to the global coastal average. Projections indicate 21% of Mid-Coast land will become open sea by the end of the century, as will 56% of the area’s famous freshwater wetlands.
  • In addition to significant inundation, warmer temperatures and a decline in frost days are projected to induce a cascade of changes to the fragile wetlands of the region, including the displacement of salt marshes—a defining feature of the region’s ecosystems—due to a lack of winter extremes and the proliferation of invasive inland mangroves. 
  • New areas are set to become vulnerable to storm surge according to the study. Guadalupe Delta and Goose Island State Park, for example, while currently not susceptible to flooding if a Category 2 storm hits Matagorda Island, will face heavy flooding in the future.

“From its extensive wildlife refuges to its vibrant fishing and tourism industries, the Texas Mid-Coast is a vital region we need to protect for future generations,” said Amanda Fuller, director of the program and co-author of the study. “This report not only localizes climate projections to identify key threats to the region, it identifies viable policy interventions that suggest all is not yet lost. We call on decision-makers, community leaders, and conservationists to come together now to save the beloved ecosystems and critical economic drivers of the Texas Mid-Coast.”

The report offers a range of specific policy recommendations grouped under three major directives:

  • Conserve and restore wetlands as a means of bolstering the unique landscapes, species, and industries (fishing and recreation) most threatened by climate change
  • Ensure enough freshwater reaches Texas’ bays and estuaries to maintain (or improve) the ecological health of these important ecosystems
  • Prioritize nature-based solutions and participatory processes to build resilient coastlines and communities that can withstand projected changes and extreme events

The Texas Mid-Coast is home to multiple National Wildlife Refuges, Wildlife Management Areas, and Texas State Parks. It is the only natural wintering home for the whooping crane, one of the world’s most endangered birds and the tallest bird in North America. 

The full report can be found here

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