Global coastal wetland change under sea-level rise and related stresses: the DIVA Wetland Change Model

Thomas Spencer, Mark Schuerch, Robert J. Nicholls, Jochen Hinkel, Daniel Lincke, A. T. Vafeidis, Ruth Reef, Loraine McFadden, Sally Brown

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125 Citations (Scopus)


The Dynamic Interactive Vulnerability Assessment Wetland Change Model (DIVA_WCM) comprises a dataset of contemporary global coastal wetland stocks (estimated at 756 × 103 km2 (in 2011)), mapped to a one-dimensional global database, and a model of the macro-scale controls on wetland response to sea-level rise. Three key drivers of wetland response to sea-level rise are considered: 1) rate of sea-level rise relative to tidal range; 2) lateral accommodation space; and 3) sediment supply. The model is tuned by expert knowledge, parameterised with quantitative data where possible, and validated against mapping associated with two large-scale mangrove and saltmarsh vulnerability studies. It is applied across 12,148 coastal segments (mean length 85 km) to the year 2100. The model provides better-informed macro-scale projections of likely patterns of future coastal wetland losses across a range of sea-level rise scenarios and varying assumptions about the construction of coastal dikes to prevent sea flooding (as dikes limit lateral accommodation space and cause coastal squeeze). With 50 cm of sea-level rise by 2100, the model predicts a loss of 46-59% of global coastal wetland stocks. A global coastal wetland loss of 78% is estimated under high sea-level rise (110 cm by 2100) accompanied by maximum dike construction. The primary driver for high vulnerability of coastal wetlands to sea-level rise is coastal squeeze, a consequence of long-term coastal protection strategies. Under low sea-level rise (29 cm by 2100) losses do not exceed ca. 50% of the total stock, even for the same adverse dike construction assumptions. The model results confirm that the widespread paradigm that wetlands subject to a micro-tidal regime are likely to be more vulnerable to loss than macro-tidal environments. Countering these potential losses will require both climate mitigation (a global response) to minimise sea-level rise and maximisation of accommodation space and sediment supply (a regional response) on low-lying coasts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-30
Number of pages16
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Accommodation space
  • Sea-level rise
  • Tidal wetlands
  • Wetland loss
  • Wetland transitions
  • Wetland vulnerability

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