Managing Coastal Ecosystems Amidst Rising Seas


Climate change is a phenomenon that has been around since the earth started going around the sun. Thanks to the Milankovitch cycles, there is always a variation in the amount of solar radiation we receive. The results of climate change involve warming and cooling, affecting how the ocean waters expand and contract.

Ice in areas such as Antarctica and Greenland melts when temperatures rise during warm periods. The seawater also expands. Mountain glaciers also contribute to the rise in water volumes globally. During cold weather, water in the sea contracts and forms ice, while precipitation falls as snow in cooler areas of the planet.

That should be the norm, but global warming brings another perspective that calls for precautionary measures. The greenhouse concentration is higher than ever, contributing to more ice melts, especially during summer. Thus, The Sea is rising at an alarming rate, which is why coastal ecosystems are in danger. Despite the agreement in Paris to have global temperature increase at an average of 2oC, the sea-level rise is still on the high end.

In this case study writing help sample, we will focus on the effect of sea-level rise on coastal ecosystems and how we can manage them to counter or adapt to the effect.

The Rising Problem and Its Cause

The increase in global sea level is estimated to be around eight inches from 1880 to 2009. According to the NASA reports, the sea level has risen by 98mm between 1993 and 2023. That contributes to between 65-90% of the total increase. These rising levels are more alarming along the US Gulf of Mexico and East Coast due to regional and local factors.

The leading cause of rising sea levels is global warming. The Industrial Revolution and other human activities, such as heavily cutting down trees, have increased the concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. In return, the planet has been warmer by 1.4oF since 1880.

The increase in temperature has caused waters to expand and ice lands to shrink. Due to the temperature rise, there is less ice on glaciers, ice sheets, and ice caps, and all this water is ending up in the oceans. The continuing rise in sea level has increased from barely more than half of the total increase between 1993 and 2008 to 75 and 80% of the total increase between 2003 and 2007.

The problem with this is that more than 100 million people live in the US alone in the coastal regions. The global figures are more stunning since an estimate of about 3 billion people live 200km from the coastline. The population numbers are higher in the coastal regions of developing countries. Apart from the people, plants like mangroves, animals, birds, and bacteria depend on what coastlines provide. They also contribute to the well-being of the coast in general.

The Coastal Ecosystem Composition

According to our environmental science homework help experts, ecosystems function through the dynamic interaction of biotic and abiotic components. The coastal ecosystem has a high productivity and a rich biodiversity that has survived through tests of time. High currents, tides, tsunami waves, and the consistent pollution that humans expose them to are some of the challenges this ecosystem faces.

The coastal lines have the following living and non-living organisms. This list is general since different coastline areas have different ecosystem members.

  • Lagoons
  • Estuaries
  • Mangroves and their wetlands
  • Seaweed beds
  • Corals and coral reefs
  • Seagrass beds
  • Mudflats
  • Horseshoe crabs and their habitats
  • Sand beaches

Importance of Coastal Ecosystems

Ecosystems, in general, provide goods and services that are vital to our existence and sustenance. The coastal ones are the same. We can recognize some of these provisions immediately or over a long period. As humans, we like to evaluate things from what we can understand. In monetary terms, the global ecosystem provides services worth $125 trillion per year, according to the 2014 revision of the 2011 case study findings.

The coastal category contributes heavily to this figure, and therefore, it requires maintenance. Otherwise, it will be hard for humanity to replace what it freely provides. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment categorizes the services we get from ecosystems into four major groups. Concerning the coastal environment, here is how we can group the services we get from this ecosystem.

  • Provisioning services: They include food, timber, fresh water, energy, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals.
  • Regulating services: They involve climate regulation, food regulation, disease control, waste treatment, and water purification.
  • Cultural services: Here, there are non-tangible rewards such as tourism, spiritual well-being, recreation, research, and education.
  • Supporting services: This is where you get things like soil formation, photosynthesis, oxygen production, carbon dioxide absorption, nutrient cycling, water cycling, and habitat provision.

With that, here is a table of the services some of the coastal ecosystem's organisms provide.

Ecosystem Member






Medicine, fish and shellfish

Managing Coastal Ecosystems Amidst Rising Seas

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Water purification, coastal protection, carbon sequestration, controlling erosion, and nutrient retention

Ecotourism, boating, and swimming as recreational activities, research, and education

Generating oxygen, fish habitat, and fisheries maintenance

Sandy beaches

Water purification, catchment area, sand, minerals

Seawater intrusion prevention, general coastal protection, tsunami and storm surge protection, erosion control

Health benefits, tourism, research and education

Habitat for burrowing organisms like mollusks and crabs


Timber, medicines, fish and shellfish, honey, groundwater recharge and discharge, other forest products

Climate regulation, flood control, carbon sequestration, shoreline stabilization, maintaining water quality

Inspiration, ecotourism, research and education

Habitat provision, fisheries maintenance, oxygen generation, biodiversity reservoir

Coral reefs

Medicine raw materials, building materials, seafood products, seaweed, jewelry

Nutrient cycling, coastal protection

Tourism, recreation, research and education

Fish and shellfish habitat, fisheries maintenance

How to Manage the Coastal Ecosystem as the Sea Level Rises

If we can manage the coastal ecosystem, we can counter the causes of rising sea levels or slow down the process. Statistics say this is inevitable, but that does not mean humans cannot take the necessary measures to keep the coastal life intact. Our environmental science specialists at Homework Market shared a few suggestions on the best ways to manage the coastal ecosystem.

To manage and protect it, we can do the following four things.

Constructing an Ecosystem Rebound

It is clear to humans that the coastal ecosystem provides more than we can see. Issues like carbon absorption are now crucial more than ever if we want to curb the temperature increase causing the sea level rise. Habitats such as the reefs and mangroves can reduce tide wave heights by up to 71%. That is in addition to flood and storm protection at an unimaginable scale. Researchers, with the help of experts, have given us data that will aid in re-thinking how we curb some of the ocean disasters.

The best way to construct a rebound for the coastal ecosystem is to establish management models and back up the existing ones from various communities and organizations. By strengthening these models, the habitats will be restored, and keeping them intact will involve strict laws to curb destruction and mitigate current threats.

  • A few measures that organizations and governments can take include:
  • Increase the conservation areas and strengthen the laws and regulations
  • Improving the condition of the coastal habitats by allowing a natural re-establishment process

Improve the Community Access and Resilience

People living around the coastline depend on it for survival. That includes everyone from the tourists who visit the environs to the indigenous groups that depend on the fish and other provisions. Once the sea level rises (among other climate change impacts), those living around the coastal regions may face irreversible disasters.

There is a built relationship between the locals and the coastal environment. That means they are also the best people to understand how to take care of what's remaining, intending to increase the quantities and territorial occupancy. To enhance a long-term approach towards coastal management in general, governments and local communities can work together by doing the following:

  • Recognize the efforts needed to maintain the coastal ecosystem and the benefits they will reap.
  • Using analysis and indigenous knowledge during the decision-making process to make every possible option inclusive
  • Promoting other meaningful ways to make a living for those who solely dwell on what the coastline has to provide
  • Having social protection programs and promoting issues such as gender equality to make it an inclusive duty to manage the coastline life

Minify the Impact of Terrestrial and Extraction Activities on the Coastal Ecosystems

Activities such as water diversion before it gets to the coastal regions have an effect. Diverting water means we also affect ground and surface water quality and quantity. That will alter the sediment supply to the coast, causing erosion on the shoreline. Major deltas in Asia, for example, (Pearl, Indus, and Mekong, among others) are at a loss risk since the establishment of dams upstream. Too much extraction of sand from these rivers for glass and concrete manufacturing is another problem.

Such activities are making the coastlines reduce in size. In such a matter, governments and organizations can:

  • Have the coastal management integrated into other strategies involving catchment, land use, and urban development
  • Have dialogues involving different sectors to support collaboration of overlapping ideas and plans
  • Control water use in urban and agricultural areas, catchment dams, and other diversions. That way, more freshwater will push the sediment towards the coast.

Campaigning for Blue Infrastructure

Utilizing the natural infrastructure and building with what nature provides is a good idea. That will be a crucial move towards having a better ecosystem around the coastline and promoting its resilience. We have been used to building with the traditional infrastructure (gray or hard concrete and steel). Shifting toward the blue side (material that mimics natural coastline) will help governments achieve a stable coastline that will handle the rising sea level and other climate change impacts.

For government and other stakeholders to realize a successful shift, they can do the following:

  • Upgrade the current coastline infrastructure using natural materials and adapt to such approaches
  • Support and increase the financial instruments that encourage hybrid or blue construction ideas
  • Encourage the acquisition of skills that support the use of blue infrastructure and have sustainable designs

Advancing the Green Ocean Farming

Green ocean farming is a climate-friendly move that involves aquaculture. Regenerative ocean farming aims at increasing the amount of seaweed and shellfish. That will also promote the water quality and lessen the acidity in the ocean, hence promoting biodiversity. Regenerating the seaweeds will also bring back other forms of life that depend on the ocean. That will also promote people through job creation locally and globally.

The Challenges to Managing Coastal Ecosystems

As we look forward to managing the ecosystem around the coastline, the challenges will make the efforts harder or ruin everything if they are not controlled.

The Progressing Climate Change

The ocean is absorbing more heat from the atmosphere due to the greenhouse effect. The sea surface temperatures have risen by 1.5oF since 1901. That makes the sea level rise as the water expands while glaciers and ice lands continue to melt. The ocean warming also poses a deoxygenation threat, affecting the coastal ecosystem.

Warm ocean waters cause the corals to bleach and threaten their overall existence. The rising sea level allows more salty water to intrude on and erode the coastline. Human activities are producing more carbon dioxide, which is being absorbed by the ocean. That increases the acidity levels, affecting corals and shellfish.


Pollution on land has already reached the ocean. Sewage, plastics, and wastewater from petrochemical industries are some of the pollutants that contribute to 80% of marine pollution. Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) result from untreated waste and stormwater being directed to the rivers and other water bodies. The mixed-up water ends up in the ocean and contributes to disrupting the coastal ecosystem's functions. The CSOs are also the primary cause of the ocean dead zones.

Development on Coastal Lines

The population is denser on the coastlines than before. The natural areas where the coastal ecosystem is supposed to grow and thrive are now the new spots for human development activities. The sea level is also rising, forcing the ecosystem to shift its location to inland positions. However, this cannot happen since humans are already on the line. This phenomenon is known as the coastal squeeze. The continued development has caused significant loss of wetlands around the coastlines where coastal ecosystems should thrive as the sea level rises.


Humans can realize the dream of managing the coastal ecosystem as the sea level rises to curb its effects. The ever-growing population poses challenges, making preservation harder to achieve. However, when some laws and regulations can govern the management, the only remaining step is to enhance while we still have the time.

It's time for governments to step up and collaborate with local communities to ensure that the entire coastal ecosystem is not lost to something that humans can control in the first place.

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author Melaine

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Melanie is a seasoned writer with more than 8 years of experience. She is passionate about academia and works off the clock to ensure she write the topnotch content for her readers.

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