Monday, June 30, 2008

EPA climate change study to target Delaware Estuary The Delaware Estuary is one of six estuaries across the country included in the Environmental Protection Agency's "Climate Ready Estuaries" list, a pilot study designed to prepare these estuaries for the potential effects of global climate change. The EPA plans to provide funding to find out how these sites are vulnerable to climate change and create an adaptation plan that accounts for issues such as sea- level rise, increased salinity z`and hazards to local wetlands.

"I think (these estuaries) are going to see some of the most severe impacts," said Amie Howell, the EPA's Delaware Estuary program coordinator for the mid-Atlantic region. Estuaries are freshwater sources - such as rivers and streams - that flow into open saltwater sources.

While the EPA's study means to determine where more attention is needed, researchers have already studied the effect of climate change on the estuary.

"We weren't starting completely from scratch," said Jennifer Adkins, executive director of the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary. "We had an idea of what impacts we wanted to look at."…David Velinsky, senior scientist at the Patrick Center for Environmental Research, which is part of the Academy, presented some of these potential impacts, including affected water quality and natural chemical processes.

One possible problem is increased salinity. If the global sea level rises, salt water from the ocean can migrate farther inland, affecting everything from the local drinking supply to farmers that use ground water to irrigate their crops. "This isn't going to happen overnight," Velinsky said. "But it's not the kind of thing you can easily treat."

NASA image of Cape Henlopen, at the mouth of the Delaware Estuary, Wikimedia Commons


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