The resilience of coastal wetlands – an optimistic look to the future

Loss estimates for coastal wetlands by the end of the century are severe. Coastal communities depend on these critical systems for the services they provide. With rising sea levels and encroaching human populations, the fate of coastal wetlands remains uncertain. However, a new study suggests that there is hope for these habitats even if the direst rates of sea-level rise occur. As long as coastal wetlands are given space to build upwards and migrate inland, we could preserve these habitats and the benefits they provide.

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Natural vs. artificial: The potential utility of artificial wetlands in bird conservation

Fueled by development, the loss of wetland habitats and its impacts on the many species of birds that depend on this habitat has been concerning to conservationists for many years. Artificial wetlands, by-products of human development, may actually help combat some of the detrimental impacts of wetland habitat loss on birds. But the potential benefits of artificial wetlands remain a largely understudied topic. Efthymia Giosa et al. (2018) address this knowledge gap by evaluating the importance of artificial wetlands for birds, and comparing them to natural wetlands, using several natural and artificial wetlands in Cyprus as case studies

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Feeling Salty About Climate Change? So Are Coastal Wetlands.

Coastal wetlands are disappearing fast – at a rate of >80,000 acres/year and rising. There are many threats to these ecosystems, one of which is “saltwater intrusion” – when saltwater is introduced into fresh bodies of water. A recent study looked at the effects of saltwater intrusion by mimicking the increased salinity experienced on a short-term basis (a hurricane) versus a long-term basis (sea level rise). The authors found that chronic saltwater intrusion had many impacts on water quality, microbial activity, greenhouse gas production, and vegetation in a tidal freshwater marsh in Georgia.

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One man’s waste water is another man’s “accidental” wetland: How urban wetlands can revolutionize restoration

After the Salt River passes through the metropolitan area of Phoenix, AZ about 90% of the original water has been removed for human and agriculture use. Because of reduced water connectivity, similar to many urban streamside areas, plant and wildlife diversity in the Phoenix area have taken a big hit. “Accidental” wetlands forming along the river may be the money-saving restoration solution Phoenix, and hundreds of other cities, are looking for.

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Wastewater and wetlands: a friendship for the ages?

Today’s wastewater is not what it once was. Pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and other lifestyle products are contributing compounds to wastewater that have emerged as harmful contaminants in the environment. In order to combat these contaminants, which are not being effectively treated by conventional wastewater treatment plants, some places have incorporated constructed wetlands as an additional treatment method meant to eliminate emerging contaminants before they enter into the environment.

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Will sea level rise harm tidal marshlands?

Tidal freshwater wetlands sit at the interface between the salty estuary and freshwater uplands, making the vulnerability of these habitats uncertain as sea level rise progresses. This study used over 5 years of plant and water level monitoring data, along with an elevation survey, to assess the relationship between plant species coverage and early season flooding. The researchers found that early in the season flooding was associated with sharp declines in plant coverage. These observations and analyses could provide insights into how sea level rise will affect tidal freshwater wetlands.

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Sinking Rails

Coastlines and estuaries are often densely populated with a wide diversity of birds. Many species have adapted to the salty coast and thrive in its waves, beaches and marshes. However, sea-level rise is changing the coast. Researchers, representatives from both universities and governmental agencies of southern California collaborated to predict what habitat for the Ridgway’s rail may look like in the next ten, twenty, thirty years all the way until the year 2110 with several predicted rates of sea-level rise. As sea levels increase, more habitat may become available; but too much flooding could destroy habitat as well.

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