Friday, February 20, 2009

Coastal wetlands in eastern US disappearing

Science Daily: While the nation as a whole gained freshwater wetlands from 1998 to 2004, a new report by NOAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents a continuing loss of coastal wetlands in the eastern United States. The new report, Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Eastern United States, shows a loss of 59,000 acres each year in the coastal watersheds of the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico from 1998 to 2004.

“This report shows the nation’s need to expand the effort to conserve and rebuild valuable coastal wetlands,” said Jim Balsiger, acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Coastal wetlands are nurseries for important commercial and recreational fish and are vital to many threatened and endangered species. They also provide natural protection to coastal communities from the most damaging effects of hurricanes and storm surges.”

One reason wetland loss is concentrated in coastal watersheds is that with large numbers of people living here – more than half of the nation’s population lives in coastal counties in densities five times greater than inland counties – the building of roads, homes and businesses have accelerated wetlands loss, particularly along the Gulf of Mexico. Wetland restoration is also more difficult in coastal areas where land values are high and factors such as storms and large expanses of soft muddy ground hamper restoration efforts.

The report contains a case study from Florida’s St. Vincent Island that illustrates the challenges of restoring coastal wetlands, but also shows the enormous benefits including opening up areas for public recreation as well as habitat for fish, turtles, shorebirds and other wildlife….

Anhinga anhinga watching sunset over marshes, Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, Florida, USA, shot by Wing-Chi Poon, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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