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Squeezed from All Sides: Urbanization, Invasive Species, and Climate Change Threaten Riparian Forest Buffers

Streamside forests of urbanizing coastal regions lie at the nexus of global changes: rising sea
levels, increasing storm surge, expanding urban development, and invasive species. To understand
how these combined stressors affect forest conditions, we identified forest patches adjacent to urban land, analyzed adjacent land cover, modeled forest inundation, and sampled 100 sites across the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay watersheds. We found that the majority of forest patches are adjacent to urban land and projected flooding will affect 8–19% of regional forested land. We observed non-native invasive plants in 94% of forest plots. Trees were predominantly native, but over half of shrub stems were invasive species and more than 80% of plots contained invasive woody vines. These data reveal that streamside forests are impacted by the interacting stressors of urbanization, climate change, and invasive species spread. Our results emphasize the importance of protection and restoration of forests in urban regions and point to the need for a social-ecological systems approach to improve their condition.