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Drivers of Change in Estuarine and Coastal Marine Environments: An Overview

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Document pages: 16 pages

Abstract: Anthropogenic climate and non-climate drivers of change are causing significant impacts on estuarine and coastal marine environments. Climate change poses a particular threat to the structure and function of biotic communities in these environments because it acts on the most extensive temporal and spatial scales relative to other anthropogenic drivers of change. The interaction of multiple environmental drivers exacerbates degradation of ecosystem condition. Estuaries are most susceptible to climate-change mediated biotic shifts and direct anthropogenic impacts due to burgeoning human population growth and development in coastal watersheds. Multiple anthropogenic drivers of change, which often interact synergistically, alter physical, chemical, and biological characteristics. Ecological responses may be increasingly nonlinear, with cumulative effects manifested by marked changes in organism abundance, distribution, diversity, and productivity. Detrimental biotic effects in impacted coastal environments cascade up from individual organisms to population and community levels, culminating in ecosystem-level changes including reduced services. Multiple drivers of change and their impacts are increasing in estuarine and coastal marine environments with greater anthropogenic forcing in the coastal zone and global effects of climate change, creating greater challenges for environmental management and conservation programs.

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