Coastlines & People (CoPe) Virtual Symposium Project

Far-field effects of sea-level rise including its physical, social, and economic impact on the US continental interior, which is remote from the coastal zone, are poorly constrained and understudied. Flooding of record proportions in Nebraska, Arkansas, and throughout the Mississippi-Ohio-Missouri river, all of which are far-field locations, highlights the impacts of altered continental hydrology on continental agriculture and river commerce.

Stephen K. Boss, professor of environmental dynamics and sustainability in Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas and William A. Schwab, professor of sociology and executive director of the David and Barbara Pryor Center for Arkansas Oral and Visual History in Fulbright College, received an award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund a symposium on far-field effects of sea-level rise and ocean-climate processes on the heartland.

The 2022-23 Coastlines & People (CoPe) Virtual Symposium Project engages a diverse group of interdisciplinary scientists and stakeholders to examine the consequences of climate change that impact both the coasts and the US Heartland. Issues to be discussed include ground and surface water flow and renewal, flooding, human migration, agriculture, transportation, and economic far-field effects.

The symposium will also profile at least two Pacific Island communities that have identified the mid-continent of the US as a relocation zone when their islands are inundated by sea-level rise and the populations are forced to move to higher ground. Broader impacts of the work have significant societal benefits in terms of how communities in the US Heartland will handle the influx of migrants, as well as how far-field community economies and environments, driven by changes in coastal geometries due to rising sea levels, will respond.

This lecture series explores what is known about far-field issues related to sea-level rise, examines the challenges facing impacted communities, and seeks to identify knowledge gaps and research priorities. Discussion topics include (1) impacts of rising sea level on dynamics of continental river systems; (2) influences of rising sea-level on continental climate and the hydrologic cycle; (3) population dislocation and migration flows from the coastal zone to the continental interior; (4) economic impacts of resource flows (material and capital) from the continental interior to the coastal zone; (5) economic impacts of sea-level rise on continental agriculture; and (6) economic impacts of sea-level rise on continental river commerce.

The CoPe Virtual Symposium Project is sponsored by NSF award # 1940078.

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