Coastal wetlands are not only among the world's most valued ecosystems but also among the most threatened by high greenhouse gas emissions that lead to accelerated sea level rise. There is intense debate regarding the extent to which landward migration of wetlands might compensate for seaward wetland losses. By integrating data from 166 estuaries across the conterminous United States, we show that landward migration of coastal wetlands will transform coastlines but not counter seaward losses. Two-thirds of potential migration is expected to occur at the expense of coastal freshwater wetlands, while the remaining one-third is expected to occur at the expense of valuable uplands, including croplands, forests, pastures, and grasslands. Our analyses underscore the need to better prepare for coastal transformations and net wetland loss due to rising seas.
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