An estimated 13,000 historic sites could be lost or damaged in the southeastern United States with just 3 feet of sea level rise, according to a new study by a team of archaeologists published in the journal PLOS One. More than 32,000 sites would be at risk if sea levels rise 15 feet.
Using the Digital Index of North American Archeology database, the study looked at archaeological sites along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, stretching from Maryland south to Louisiana. Those at risk, including thousands on the National Register of Historic Places, include Native American sites that are 10,000 years old, early colonial settlements like Jamestown, Virginia, and more modern historic sites, like the Kennedy Space Center. Florida alone could lose 4,000 historic sites from 3 feet of sea level rise.
The latest U.S. National Climate Assessment says global sea levels could rise 1 to 4 feet by 2100, but that “a rise of as much as 8 feet cannot be ruled out.”
“There are going to be a lot of cultural sites lost and the record of humanity’s history will be put at risk,” David Anderson, a University of Tennessee anthropologist and lead author of the new research, told The Guardian. “Some sites will be destroyed, some buried in marshes. We may be able to relocate some. In some places it will be devastating. We need to properly understand the magnitude of this.”
For more information on how sea level rise is already impacting coastal historic sites across the globe, click here.