Tag Archives: Marshes and Wetlands

NOAA Analysis Reveals Significant Land Cover Changes in U.S. Coastal Regions

Restoration of Lavaca Bay, Texas. Seventy acres of salt marsh were created in Lavaca Bay, Texas, as a result of a cooperative natural resource damages settlement with NOAA. Captions and Photo source: NOAA


A new NOAA nationwide analysis shows that between 1996 and 2011, 64,975 square miles in coastal regions, an area larger than the state of Wisconsin, experienced changes in land cover, including a decline in wetlands and forest cover with development a major contributing factor.

Overall, 8.2 percent of the nation’s ocean and Great Lakes coastal regions experienced these changes. In analysis of the five year period between 2001-2006, coastal areas accounted for 43 percent of all land cover change in the continental U.S. This report identifies a wide variety of land cover changes that can intensify climate change risks, such as loss of coastal barriers to sea level rise and storm surge, and includes environmental data that can help coastal managers improve community resilience.

“Land cover maps document what’s happening on the ground. By showing how that land cover has changed over time, scientists can determine how these changes impact our plant’s environmental health,” said Nate Herold, a NOAA physical scientist who directs the mapping effort at NOAA’s Coastal Services Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

Among the significant changes were the loss of 1,536 square miles of wetlands, and a decline in total forest cover by 6.1 percent.

The findings mirror similar changes in coastal wetland land cover loss reported in the November 2013 report, Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Coastal Watersheds of the Conterminous United States 2004 to 2009, an interagency supported analysis published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA.

This new NOAA analysis adds to the 2013 report with more recent data and includes loss of forest cover in an overall larger land area survey. Both wetlands and forest cover are critical to the promotion and protection of coastal habitat for the nation’s multi-billion dollar commercial and recreational fishing industries.

Development was a major contributing factor in the decline of both categories of land cover. Wetland loss due to development equals 642 square miles, a disappearance rate averaging 61 football fields lost daily. Forest changes overall totaled 27,515 square miles, equaling West Virginia, Rhode Island and Delaware combined. This total impact, however, was partially offset by reforestation growth. Still, the net forest cover loss was 16,483 square miles.

These findings, and many others, are viewable via the Land Cover Atlas program from the NOAA’s Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP). Standardized NOAA maps allow scientists to compare maps from different regions and maps from the same place but from different years, providing easily accessible data that are critically important to scientists, managers, and city planners as the U.S. population along the coastline continues to grow.

“The ability to mitigate the growing evidence of climate change along our coasts with rising sea levels already impacting coastlines in ways not imaged just a few years ago makes the data available through the Land Cover Atlas program critically important to coastal resilience planning,” said Margaret Davidson, National Ocean Service senior advisor for coastal inundation and resilience science services.

C-CAP data identify a wide variety of land cover changes that can intensify climate change risks — for example, forest or wetland losses that threaten to worsen flooding and water quality issues or weaken the area’s fishing and forestry industries. The atlas’s visuals help make NOAA environmental data available to end users, enabling them to help the public better understand the importance of improving resilience.

“Seeing changes over five, 10, or even 15 years allows Land Cover Atlas users to focus on local hazard vulnerabilities and improve their resilience plans,” said Jeffrey L. Payne, Ph.D., acting director for NOAA’s Coastal Services Center. “For instance, the atlas has helped its users assess sea level rise hazards in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, high-risk areas for stormwater runoff in southern California, and the best habitat restoration sites in two watersheds of the Great Lakes.”

Selected Regional Findings – 1996 to 2011:

  • The Northeast region added more than 1,170 square miles of development, an area larger than Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the District of Columbia combined.
  • The West Coast region experienced a net loss of 3,200 square miles of forest (4,900 square miles of forests were cut while 1,700 square miles were regrown).
  • The Great Lakes was the only region to experience a net wetlands gain (69 square miles), chiefly because drought and lower lake levels changed water features into marsh or sandy beach.
  • The Southeast region lost 510 square miles of wetlands, with more than half this number replaced by development.
  • Many factors led to the Gulf Coast region’s loss of 996 square miles of wetlands, due to land subsidence and erosion, storms, man-made changes, sea level rise, and other factors.
  • On a positive note, local restoration activities, such as in Florida’s Everglades, and lake-level changes enabled some Gulf Coast and Southeast region communities to gain modest-sized wetland areas, although such gains did not make up for the larger regional wetland losses.

C-CAP moderate-resolution data on the Land Cover Atlas encompasses the intertidal areas, wetlands, and adjacent uplands of 29 states fronting the oceans and Great Lakes. High-resolution data are available for select locations.

Original Article, NOAA

Why Restoring Wetlands Is More Critical Than Ever

Photo source: ©© Mmahahaffie


Along the Delaware River estuary, efforts are underway to restore wetlands lost due to centuries of human activity.

With sea levels rising, coastal communities there and and elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe are realizing the value of wetlands as important buffers against flooding and tidal surges…

Read Full Article Article, Yale E 360

Can Marsh Conservation Save Local Homes Prone To Beach Erosion?

Hatches Harbor salt marsh, Cape Coad. The Hatches Harbor salt marsh is a remnant of a larger salt marsh complex that existed at the time of the first European settlement. USGS. Photo source: ©© Lydia Mann


Conservationists are offering a solution for combatting beach erosion on the North Shore.

WATCH: A Video News Report: WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager

Original Article, Boston . Com

Marshes of Mesopotamia

Photo source: NASA
At the northern end of the Persian Gulf is the vast deltaic plain of the Euphrates, Tigris and Karun rivers. A complex of shallow freshwater lakes, swamps, marshes, and seasonally inundated plains between the Tigris and Euphrates make up the largest river delta in the Middle East, the Mesopotamian Delta and Marshes ecoregion, located in southern Iraq and partially in southwestern Iran. Captions source: ©© WWF
The Mesopotamian Marshes are a wetland area Historically the marshlands, mainly composed of the separate but adjacent Central, Hawizeh and Hammar Marshes, used to be the largest wetland ecosystem of Western Eurasia.
Regarded by historians as one of the cradles of civilization, the Mesopotamian Fertile Crescent has supported Marsh Arab society for millennia. NASA. The hydrology of these vast marshes is extremely important to the ecology of the entire upper Persian Gulf. NASA


The Mesopotamian Marshes, a vast expanse of reeds and open water twice the size of Norfolk, are the largest wetland ecosystem in the Middle East and support a number of species of global conservation concern. The marshes hold the only breeding population of the globally endangered Basra reed warbler and the world’s highest wintering numbers of the threatened marbled duck.

Now the marshes are under threat again, this time from the building of huge dams in Turkey on the Tigris and Euphrates…

Read Full Article “Conservation knows no boundaries…”, Guardian UK

Lessons from Iraq: Urban Marshes and City Survival, Science Daily
A scientist at the University of South Carolina is continuing to build the case that natural wetlands, rather than irrigated fields, are the fertile ground from which cities initially emerged in Mesopotamia. And her conclusions about the importance of wetlands to a sustainable urban environment or, in fact, any environment, have particular resonance in southern Iraq. That area is both the site of her studies and the region where Saddam Hussein forcibly drained marshes to drive out the local populace after the first Gulf war.

Mesopotamian Delta and Marshes, WWF

Vanishing Marshes of Mesopotamia, NASA

Water and life return to Iraq’s ‘Garden of Eden’, Guardian UK
One of Saddam Hussein’s greatest acts of ecological destruction, the draining of the Mesopotamian marshes, left a vast area of once-teeming river delta a dry, salt-encrusted desert, emptied of insects, birds and the people who lived on them. But, nearly two decades later the area is buzzing and twittering with life again after local people and a new breed of Iraqi conservationists have restored much of what was once the world’s third largest wetland to some of its former glory…

Dam Threatens Turkey’s Past and Future, IPS

Turkey’s Dams Are Violating Human Rights, Green Prophet

Marsh Arabs poling a traditional mashoof in the marshes of southern Iraq. Captions and Photo source: ©© Hassan Janali, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Why Are U.S. Eastern Seaboard Salt Marshes Falling Apart?

Hatches Harbor, Cape Cod. Photo source: ©© Lydia Mann


Salt marshes have been disintegrating and dying over the past two decades along the U.S. Eastern seaboard and other highly developed coastlines, without anyone fully understanding why.

This week in the journal Nature, MBL Ecosystems Center scientist Linda Deegan and colleagues report that nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus from septic and sewer systems and lawn fertilizers, can cause salt-marsh loss…

Read Full Article, Science Daily

Coastal eutrophication as a driver of salt marsh loss, Original Study / Nature Journal
“Salt marshes are highly productive coastal wetlands that provide important ecosystem services such as storm protection for coastal cities, nutrient removal and carbon sequestration. Despite protective measures, however, worldwide losses of these ecosystems have accelerated in recent decades. Here we present data from a nine-year whole-ecosystem nutrient-enrichment experiment. Our study demonstrates that nutrient enrichment, a global problem for coastal ecosystems, can be a driver of salt marsh loss…”

Salt Marsh Carbon May Play Role in Slowing Climate Warming
A warming climate and rising seas will enable salt marshes to more rapidly capture and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, possibly playing a role in slowing the rate of climate change, according to a new study led by a University of Virginia environmental scientist.

Man-Made English Saltmarshes Are Failing To Meet European Plant Standards

Salt Marsh in Salcott Creek/Blackwater Estuary. Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides. Photo source: ©© Matthew Barker


Man-made English salt marshes are failing to meet European conservation regulations that stipulate they should be as rich in plant life as natural wetlands, a new study warned on Thursday.

Salt marshes are coastal wetlands that are flooded and drained by salt water brought in by the tides, and are found all around the coastline of Great Britain…

Read Full Article, Guardian UK

Recreational Fishing Causes Cape Cod Salt Marsh Die-Off

Hatches Harbor salt marsh, Cape Coad. The Hatches Harbor salt marsh is a remnant of a larger salt marsh complex that existed at the time of the first European settlement. USGS. Photo source: ©© Lydia Mann


As recreational fishing activity has reduced predators in many of Cape Cod’s salt marsh ecosystems, Sesarma crabs have feasted on grasses, causing dramatic die-offs of the marshes, according to a new study. The researchers assessed the “trophic cascade” in several experiments that also ruled out alternative explanations for the problem…

Read Full Article, Science Daily

Restoring a Salt Marsh, NPS / USGS

Marshes Hold Clues of Ancient Hurricanes

Sunset over marshes, in Corolla, North Carolina. Photo source: ©© Sugarliding


Friday marks the beginning of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. Cue the groans, the crossed fingers and the hope that mad rushes for plywood and batteries will wait for another year. Many of you are probably wondering what’s the chance that you will get hit this year.

As residents of Eastern North Carolina know well, hurricanes are not idle threats. According to the National Climatic Data Center, tropical storm and hurricane strikes are the single most common causes of billion-dollar natural disasters in the United States, accounting for nearly $260 billion in damages between 1980 and 2005, or more than half of the combined losses from all U.S. natural disasters. And since 1851, 18 percent of all hurricane strikes on the United States occurred in North Carolina.

Part of the frustration with hurricanes—and one reason why they are so destructive—is that hurricane strikes are anything but predictable. Along the North Carolina coast, the total number of storm that make landfall varies enormously from year to year…

Read Full Article, by Jesse Farmer, Coastal Review Online

Prehistoric Trash Heaps Created Florida Everglades’ Tree Islands

Tree Islands of the Florida Everglades. Photo source: USGS


Heaps of trash left behind by prehistoric humans might have given rise to many of the tree islands found in the Florida Everglades, researchers find.

Tree islands are patches of relatively high and dry ground typically a yard or two high sprinkled throughout the marshes of the Everglades. They serve as havens of life, highly valued hotspots of diversity that provide nesting sites for alligators and refuges for birds, panthers and other wildlife avoiding high waters…

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