Reply to “Global coastal wetland expansion under accelerated sea-level rise is unlikely”

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Mark Schuerch, Tom Spencer, Stijn Temmerman, Matthew L. Kirwan, Claudia Wolff, Daniel Lincke, Chris McOwen, Mark D. Pickering, Ruth Reef, Athanasios T. Vafeidis


We thank Törnqvist et al. for engaging with our modelling study on the future response of global coastal wetlands to sea-level rise (SLR) and their careful and critical discussion of the presented methods and results. However, we disagree with their suggestion that our modelling approach is inadequate, a claim which relies on two arguments: (1) they argue that our results are inconsistent with the “A/S (accommodation versus sediment supply) theory”; (2) they refer to coastal Louisiana as a case example where our modelling results would deviate from historic observations and future projections of coastal wetland change. However, below we will demonstrate that Törnqvist et al.’s application of the A/S theory is not valid to predict changes in coastal wetland area, and that our global predictions are in line with regional observations and projections for coastal Louisiana and the wider region of the Gulf of Mexico.
Taking coastal Louisiana as an example, Törnqvist et al. highlight that ca. 6000 km2 of land are expected to be lost over the coming 50 years due to RSLR and the erosion/drowning of coastal wetlands. However, this figure cannot directly be compared to our results, because it does not account for upland areas being converted to wetlands as sea level rises; it only accounts for seaward losses due to erosion and/or drowning with associated shoreline retreat and land loss3. Equivalent scenario runs of our model (i.e. only considering wetland accretion, but no inland migration) result in a comparable projected wetland loss in Louisiana of ca. 6,900 km2 until 2100, under the medium SLR scenario (RCP4.5). This loss is triggered by insufficient sediment availability for the marshes to keep pace with SLR in situ. Hence, Törnqvist et al.’s claim that our model underestimates future wetland loss on the US Gulf coast is incorrect. Rather, we demonstrate that our global-scale model predictions of wetland losses are comparable to regional estimates.



Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Physical Sciences and Mathematics, Sustainability


Sea-level rise, Coastal wetlands


Published: 2020-03-05 13:33

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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