via US Fish and Wildlife Service Marshes

World - Rising Sea Levels Drown Coastal Marshes, Wetlands

Climate change and rising sea levels are breaking down the ecosystems that protect coastal communities. Texas A&M researchers have found their threshold for recovery is lower than previously thought.

Salt marshes and other ecosystems act as barriers against storm surges and natural disasters for coastal communities around the world. Normally, the resiliency of these natural barriers allows them to continue to function and protect the communities they separate from the sea.

However, with changing climates and rising sea levels, these natural barriers are being broken down across the globe. Engineers like Orencio Duran Vinent, assistant professor in the Department of Ocean Engineering at Texas A&M University, are taking a deeper look into the fundamentals of coastal ecosystems and how Engineering with Nature elements can be used to fortify and, in some cases, recreate these vital protections.

“For these coastal ecosystems to be more useful in engineering applications, we need to know how they respond, how they adapt, how easy they are restored and, in case they fail, how easy it is to create them,” said Duran Vinent.

Salt marshes are some of the most valuable and vulnerable ecosystems in the world. Duran Vinent and his team have discovered that their threshold for recovery is lower than previously thought. Using a simplified formulation for sediment transport, his research identified that the marshes do not need to completely fall beneath rising sea levels to begin degrading, but instead begin to fragment and drown piece by piece at a lower water level.

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