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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Going, going, gone! Living shorelines send nitrogen packin’!

Coastal wetlands provide critical ecological services, but are rapidly disappearing from the planet. Salt marshes are a type of coastal wetland that provides habitat, food, and shelter, while preventing erosion, and protecting our water quality. Researchers are investigating how well reduce nutrient pollution, specifically nitrogen, from terrestrial and aquatic environments. A recent study discovered that living shorelines such as salt marshes are quite effective at removing nitrogen, especially in the first seven years after construction. These findings indicate that living shorelines are an effective solution to coastal pollution challenges.

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Salt marsh and mangroves are equally vulnerable to sea level rise

Mangroves have extended their range as a result of climate change and have established in areas that were previously salt marshes. Both mangrove stands and salt marshes act as buffers against coastal storms. Studies have suggested that mangroves and salt marshes have the ability to cope with global sea level rise by increasing local elevation through trapping soil and expanding their root structure. A recent study in the Mississippi River Delta reports that black mangroves and salt marsh plants have similar abilities to build sediment in coastal areas, but the rate of elevation increase is still lower than sea level rise. Therefore, both salt marsh and mangrove-dominated habitats of the Mississippi River Delta are at risk from sea level rise.

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