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Coastal Lagoons and Climate Change: Ecological and Social Remifications in U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coast Ecosystems


Lagoons are highly productive coastal features that provide a range of
natural services that society values. Their setting within the coastal
landscape leaves them especially vulnerable to profound physical,
ecological, and associated societal disturbance from global climate
change. Expected shifts in physical and ecological characteristics range
from changes in flushing regime, freshwater inputs, and water chemistry
to complete inundation and loss and the concomitant loss of natural and
human communities. Therefore, managing coastal lagoons in the context of
global climate change is critical. Although management approaches will
vary depending on local conditions and cultural norms, all management
scenarios will need to be nimble and to make full use of the spectrum of
values through which society views these unique ecosystems. We propose
that this spectrum includes pragmatic, scholarly, aesthetic, and tacit
categories of value. Pragmatic values such as fishery or tourism revenue
are most easily quantified and are therefore more likely to be
considered in management strategies. In contrast, tacit values such as a
sense of place are more difficult to quantify and therefore more likely
to be left out of explicit management justifications. However, tacit
values are the most influential to stakeholder involvement because they
both derive from and shape individual experiences and beliefs. Tacit
values underpin all categories of social values that we describe and can
be expected to have a strong influence over human behavior. The
articulation and inclusion of the full spectrum of values, especially
tacit values, will facilitate and support nimble adaptive management of
coastal lagoon ecosystems in the context of global climate change.