The continuous rise of sea levels could threaten more than 13,000 archeological and historical sites in the Southeastern United States, according to new research.
If sea levels worsen, landscapes and cemeteries on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts could be at risk of being wiped out or going underwater completely.
The research was published in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed journal. David Anderson from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, along with his colleagues, wrote the study, arguing that that the effects of sea level rise can be examined through "quantitatively-based analyses encompassing large data samples and broad geographic and temporal scales."
Rise In Sea Levels Will Destroy US Heritage Sites
The researchers looked at data acquired from the Digital Index of the North American Archaeology, or DINAA, to predict the effect of the continuous rise in sea level on historical sites.
"DINAA allows us to examine where people were living in North America over the entire 15,000-year record of human settlement," Anderson told Live Science.
Their conclusion says thousands of sites could be submerged within the century. These include the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina, and Jamestown, Virginia, the country's oldest permanent English settlement.
Charleston, South Carolina, and St. Augustine, Florida, two of the country's continuously occupied European settlements, were estimated to become high-risk areas as well.
What's startling is that even a measly sea level rise of around three to 10 feet would be enough to threaten the above-mentioned historical sites. It would be more catastrophic if the rise climbs higher, say, around 16.4 feet. In that scenario, 32,000 sites could be affected, many of which are included in the National Register of Historic Places.
"We will lose much of the record of the last several thousand years of human occupation in coastal areas, where a great deal of history and settlement has occurred," said Anderson.
Sea levels rising hold far more pressing implications than merely damage to the areas. Not only will history and heritage be destroyed, residents of said places will inevitably be displaced in the process.
Predicted Damage And Effects
Florida and Louisiana are expected to be affected the most, especially because Florida has the longest coastal margin in the Southeastern area. As for Louisiana, the Pelican State is likely to be burdened with shoreline erosion and a rise in sea level that's higher than average.
The estimates should already be a cause for concern, but they're actually modest predictions, according to Eric Kansa, one of the authors of the study. There are many more undocumented areas that have yet to be studied; the research merely scratches the surface, in a sense.