Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science


The present study was focused on developing a shoreline change forecast and wetland response model for Dorchester County, MD, to evaluate the vulnerability of wetlands to shoreline erosion and inundation due to relative sea level rise. The model considers the following forces involved in wetland stability and sustainability: inundation (as a function of topography and sea-level rise), shoreline erosion, vertical accretion and horizontal migration. To predict the long-term risk to nearshore wetlands and the potential habitat zone for wetlands in the next 50 years, shoreline change due to inundation and erosion/accretion was assessed within the frameworks of two-dimensional and three-dimensional analyses. To that end, three different scenarios were taken into account in the shoreline change forecast. The first (conservative) scenario estimated the future shoreline positions based on historic sea-level rates of change and historic erosion/accretion rates. The other two scenarios employed accelerated rates of sea-level rise and accelerated rates of shoreline erosion/accretion in the shoreline forecast. Two different approaches were employed to spatially analyze and combine the outputs of the projections based on inundation and erosion. A Maximum Change approach and a Characterization of the Inundation Forecast were carried out in each scenario. The future location of the shoreline was defined as the wetland-water boundary. The wetland-upland boundary was defined based on current topography (elevations at 2 times the tidal range above mean low water), and the potential wetland habitat was restricted to areas that are not presently developed and/or not behind a shoreline defense structure. The outputs of this model allow identification of potential future wetland habitats where wetland protection and restoration strategies can be directed. This model approach can serve as a prototype for expanded investigations in other coastal habitats.



© The Author