USA - How to Save Saltwater Wetlands From Rising Seas
America's coastal saltwater wetlands are on a course toward functional extinction in the coming decades.
Their demise will come at the hands of steadily accelerating sea-level rise and relentless coastal development. As these wetlands disappear, they will take with them habitat, storm buffering and carbon sequestration benefits of tremendous value.
Fortunately, there is still time to change course. A determined and coordinated effort by local, state and federal governments — led by the Biden administration — could dramatically increase the number of saltwater wetlands that survive and go a long way to maintaining their ecological and societal benefits into the future.
Saltwater Wetlands: To Know Them Is to Love Them
The most recent estimate of the extent of saltwater wetlands along the American coast, published in 2009, found some 6.4 million acres with about half occurring along the Gulf of Mexico. This is a mere remnant of their historic extent and a decline of some 95,000 acres from the previous assessment in 2004, largely in the Gulf of Mexico. Ominously, the rate of loss increased by 35% from the prior five-year reporting period.
The remaining saltwater wetlands still provide an impressive array of ecological services and benefits to society. Often termed "the most productive ecosystems on Earth" they are nursery grounds for fisheries and provide habitat for birds, mammals and other wildlife.