Coastal change research/management projects and priority information needs in Cook Inlet and Southeast Alaska

Research on coastal change in the north pacific has increased rapidly in recent years, making it challenging to track existing projects, understand their cumulative insights, gauge remaining research gaps, and prioritize future work. Coastal resources and communities in the North Pacific have experienced the tangible impacts of climate change due to rising sea surface temperatures, increased seasonal precipitation, and a decline in marine pH levels.

The goals of this project were to foster better coordination about coastal change studies, help practitioners and scholars learn from one another, identify existing research gaps, make research more transparent and easily accessible to stakeholders in the region, and provide a framework for better understanding how projects interact.

This report provides a synthesis of current research and management studies in the Alaska portion of the NPLCC that may:

  • help to foster better coordination about coastal change in the NPLCC
  • help practitioners and scholars learn from one another
  • identify information gaps that need to be addressed.

To identify coastal change projects, we conducted an extensive internet search utilizing existing databases and online resources and sent out requests for information to stakeholders from a diverse range of university, state, federal, tribal and local institutions.

Projects from the North Pacific Landscape Cooperative (NPLCC) Coastal Change Database were categorized into several topic areas. Of the 107 current coastal change research and management projects we identified throughout the Alaska portion of the NPLCC located from Cook Inlet in Southcentral Alaska through Southeast Alaska, over half (55%) of these were best described as biological system projects with research and analysis on coastal birds and bird populations, marine mammals, fish, vegetation, and coastal and nearshore habitats.

Human system, landscape geophysical system, and oceanographic system projects made up the remainder of the projects, 21%, 18% and 6%, respectively. We analyzed whether identified current coastal change research projects were meeting identified gaps in current trends and future predictions for the region.

Overall, a large portion of projects we identified were meeting known scientific and research needs in current trends and future predictions. However, this analysis suggests there is still work to be done in certain areas such as research on eelgrass and Pacific lamprey and altered interactions in several categories: non-native and invasive species, ocean currents, ocean productivity, patterns of coastal hypoxia and anoxia, frequency and severity of storms, patterns of coastal upwelling, and sedimentation patterns.

See also: A related project focusing on Western Alaska