Protecting & Restoring Long Island's Peconic Bays

Climate Change

PEP will lead scientifically informed, proactive efforts by local communities that can reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

Resilient Communities Prepared for Climate Change

House on stilts on the shore of the Peconic Estuary.

The influence of climate change on the Peconic Estuary and the communities around it will grow profoundly far into the future. Scientifically informed, proactive efforts can reduce the negative impacts.

Projected changes in precipitation patterns, particularly increases in extreme rain events, will likely cause greater runoff of nutrients and other pollutants from land into the Estuary and may also increase atmospheric deposition of pollutants. Rising sea levels are expected to result in increasingly frequent inundation of drinking water wells and septic systems on coastal properties, leading to more nitrogen and pathogens entering groundwater, surface waters, and the Estuary. In turn, greater nitrogen loading of the Peconic Estuary can be expected to result in more frequent harmful algal blooms, reduced water clarity, and a general degradation of coastal habitats. Excessive pathogens may lead to more frequent closures of bathing beaches and shellfish harvesting areas, while herbicides and pesticides are increasingly being linked to losses of seagrasses and other marine habitats that serve as important feeding and nursery areas for recreationally and commercially important fish species.

As temperatures increase, sea levels rise (SLR), and precipitation occurs with increasing intensity, estuarine species and habitats may move or change. Where there is significant coastal development and shoreline hardening, important habitats such as salt marshes could be blocked from migrating landward as sea levels rise. Changes in air and water temperatures may lead to shifts in the relative abundance of fish and other estuarine species. Species once thought to be more southerly or warm-adapted may become more common, while those adapted to cooler climatic conditions may decline. Ocean and coastal acidification due to increased atmospheric carbon dioxide could negatively affect shell-building creatures and many other types of estuarine life. The dynamic nature of the Peconic Estuary’s natural resources will require protection of critical habitats both where they exist today and where they may exist in the future.

Completed in 2019, the Peconic Estuary Partnership Climate Vulnerability Assessment and Action Plan, as well as other scientific resources, informed the CCMP 2020 development process and detailed the below information on climate change impacts.

Climate Change Impacts in the Peconic Estuary

CRRA Sea Level Rise Projections for the Long Island Region
The Sea Level Rise (SLR) Protections were taken from the New York State Community Risk and Resiliency Act (CRRA) SLR projections, which were based on the 2014 ClimAID update.



Current Projects

Peconic Estuary Partnership provides program and project updates!

Search here for PEP Program Updates

Erosion behind a bulkhead on the shore.

PEP’s Critical Lands Protection Strategy Criteria and Ranking Tool

In the face of climate change impacts – specifically sea level rise – we need to be strategic in adapting. PEP developed the Critical Lands Protection Strategy (CLPS) in order to inform land acquisition priorities and reach land protection goals.

Did you know that protecting land can increase resiliency and improve water quality?
Protecting land not only provides safe haven for wildlife species, but it also provides:

  • Wetland habitats the room to migrate inland as sea level rises
  • ‘Living shoreline’ project opportunities that strengthen our shores from storm surges while also preserving open access to our bays
  • Protection of our groundwater from unwanted pollution and the ability to better handle flooding as water tables rise

If we can prioritize the parcels of land that will provide the greatest potential to protecting and preserving the health of the estuary, then we can move forward in making informed decisions about our land – building a cleaner and more resilient future.

To make this easy, we have developed The Critical Lands Protection Strategy Criteria and Ranking Tool!

This tool assigns a priority score to individual parcels of land based on how they meet or do not meet our carefully selected criteria. We ask questions like – Is this parcel of land located in an area that will become inundated under future sea-level rise projections? Does this parcel of land contain or will contain freshwater or tidal wetlands?  We have organized criteria like these into three groupings with the goals of:

This information has been transformed into interactive maps! Municipalities, land stewards, and decision makers alike can use this tool to help decide which lands to acquire and evaluate which climate adaptation strategy is appropriate. This tool will help us make land management decisions that will matter for habitat and water quality protection, now and in the future.

PEP hosted a virtual workshop to guide you in using our interactive story map and ranking tool.

Explore the story map that will allow you to identify land priorities and equip you with next actions to take.

This tool is a component of the PEP 2020 Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan. Click here to read our plan that contains Goals and Actions we will work towards over the next decade, bringing us closer to achieving our mission of protecting and restoring the Peconic Estuary and its watershed.

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