Coastal Wetlands Disappearing Faster Than Before
Within five years, the United States lost more than 360,000 acres of coastal wetlands, according to a federal study, revealing restoration and re-establishment programs are barely making a dent when pitted against land development, sea-level rise, and violent storms.
Aconducted by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found approximately 80,000 acres of freshwater and saltwater wetlands in coastal watersheds disappeared each year between 2004 and 2009—a 25% increase from the acres lost per year in the previous survey. An estimated 71% of wetland losses were in the coastal watersheds of the Gulf of Mexico.
The report attributes much of the losses to severe storms and land development. Saltwater wetlands in the Gulf were severely inundated and eroded by hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. In contrast, 37% of freshwater wetland that was lost to upland was driven by urban and rural development, and human populations in coastal counties continue to grow.
The report did find evidence of re-establishment programs making some headway. For example, freshwater wetland area from agricultural lands increased by 50,230 acres, and wetlands from “other uplands” increased by 15,290 acres. However, some of these figures may include forested wetlands that were cleared for silviculture, and they still reflect a lack of re-establishment programs in coastal watersheds compared to the nation as a whole.
For more information:
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Published December 30, 2013