This is a brief description of studies that exemplify the methods and approaches that have been developed and used by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) researchers in conducting integrated assessments. See the complete list of Integrated Assessment Briefs to find out more about ORNL's efforts in integrated assessment. Contact Mike Farrell ( for more information.

Effects of Sea Level Rise on Threatened and Endangered Species

Percentage of Cape Romaine refuge lost to different sea level rise scenarios.

How will the sea level rise impact the habitats of threatened and endangered species that live in the coastal zones of the U.S. Southeast, specifically South Carolina and the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge?

Of the 70 endangered or threatened species that occur within the U.S. Southeast, 27.5% have habitats that are within 3 m of mean sea level.

In South Carolina the American alligator, Bachman's warbler, bald eagle, brown pelican, loggerhead sea turtle, piping plover, red-cockaded woodpecker, shortnose sturgeon, and wood stork have significant amounts of their habitats in the coastal zone. These species will be adversely affected by an increase in sea level. The Bachman's warbler and red-cockaded woodpecker, for instance, will have more than 50% of their habitat in danger from sea level rise by the year 2100.

Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge, South Carolina, serves as feeding and nesting grounds for several endangered or threatened species. The most prominent of these are the American alligator, loggerhead sea turtle, brown pelican, and wood stork. If the current rate of relative sea level rise increases to 5 mm/year or greater by the year 2100 (the current rate is 3.3 mm/year), then the refuge's marshlands and barrier islands could be reduced in size by as much as 58%. Destruction of this amount of habitat may make the area unsuitable for those species that are currently inhabiting the refuge.

Daniels, R. C., T. W. White, and K. K. Chapman. 1993. Sea-level rise: Destruction of threatened and endangered species habitat in South Carolina. Environmental Management 17(3):373-385.

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Integrated Assessment Briefs. 1995. ORNL/M-4227. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN.