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Louisiana’s Wetlands Drowning Due to Rising Sea Levels – Putting The State At A Greater Risk Of Future Storms

Source: Flickr/Ken Lund

Louisiana is home to more than three million acres of coastal wetlands, accounting for roughly 7.5% of the coastal wetlands in the United States. Unfortunately, those wetlands – which are vital to a healthy environment – are being threatened by a sudden rise in sea levels. Here’s what you need to know!

Sudden Spike In Sea Levels Over Past 13 Years

Climatologists have been studying the world’s climate for more than 140 years. While they’ve been aware of the gradual rise in sea levels along the United States’ coastlines, they’ve grown increasingly worried due to a sudden spike over the past 13 years.

Source: Adobe Stock

That spike is a direct byproduct of climate change and global warming, which is accelerating due to the effects of human activity. Warmer temperatures mean warmer water – which means glaciers are melting and sea levels are rising.

Has Risen About 8-9 Inches Since 1880

Scientists and researchers have had at least somewhat accurate measurements of the global temperature since 1880 – when there were enough formal weather stations around the world to provide reliable data.

Source: LinkedIn

Over the past 140 years, sea levels have risen between eight and nine inches. What’s even more concerning is that the rate of global sea level rise has more than doubled between the 20th and 21st centuries.

Highest Annual Average In 2022

2022 was a historic year for global sea levels – and not in a good way. According to an analysis by NASA in 2023, global sea levels rose 0.3 inches between 2022 and 2023 – marking the highest annual average in the satellite record (since 1993).

Source: Shutterstock

“Current rates of acceleration mean that we are on track to add another 20 centimeters of global mean sea level by 2050, doubling the amount of change in the next three decades compared to the previous 100 years,” the report read.

Louisiana’s Wetlands Struggling To Keep Up

A new study by Nature Communications is giving us a crystal clear look at how the rise in sea level is effecting coastal wetlands in the United States. More specifically, the study found that Louisiana’s wetlands are having a hard time keeping up.

Source: Medium

In fact, more than 87% of the 253 sites monitored by researchers are unable to keep up with rising water levels. That number is quite concerning, considering how important wetlands are to the environment and surrounding ecosystem.

Among Most Severe Consequences Of Climate Change

The study’s authors warned that the effects of rising sea levels are ‘a problem of utmost scientific and societal importance.’ They believe the issue will only grow worse and at an increasing rate if something isn’t done to protect the environment.

Source: Shutterstock

They say this ongoing threat ‘ranks among the most severe consequences of climate change due to its expected role in driving human migration, along with its detrimental impact on coastal ecosystems that rank among the most valuable on the planet.’

Maryland Facing Similar Problems

And it appears Louisiana isn’t alone. A new mapping project coordinated by Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shows that some existing wetlands could soon be submerged under water – and existing land could soon turn to wetlands.

Source: Shutterstock

“With the growing impacts of sea level rise, it’s more critical than ever that we protect corridors of land where marshes can successfully migrate and continue to benefit our coastal communities,” said one expert on the matter.

What Are Coastal Wetlands?

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a wetland is ‘an area of land that is saturated with water and characterized by plants that can tolerate wet soils​ and low oxygen levels at their roots.’ 

Source: Shutterstock

Coastal wetlands are those located in watersheds along the coastline – including salt marshes, freshwater marshes, seagrass beds, mangrove swamps, and forested swamps.

Benefits Of Coastal Wetlands

The wetlands along the United States’ coastline play an important role in our environment. They not only provide important habitat for commercial and recreational fisheries, but they also provide clean drinking water and protect against floods.

Source: Shutterstock

The NOAA estimates that 18% of the United States’ production of oil and 25% of the country’s production of natural gas either originates in, is transported through, or is processed in Louisiana coastal wetlands.

Why Are Coastal Wetlands Suffering?

With climate change raising sea levels, it’s only a matter of time before coastal wetlands become fully submerged in water, rendering them useless to the environment. Pollution and human activity are also having a negative effect on wetlands.

Source: Shutterstock

“According to a 2009 study, the coastal watersheds of the lower 48 states lose 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands each year to erosion, subsidence, sea-level rise, development, and drainage,” the NOAA writes on their website.

What Can We Do To Fight Back?

As citizens, it’s our duty to join together and do our part in making sure future generations have a clean and healthy environment to thrive in. The problem is most people don’t know how to help and are unaware of their role in the solution.

Source: Shutterstock

Some of the things we can start doing today include volunteering to clean up your community, respecting natural areas, following the Three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle), reducing pollution, using non-toxic products for lawns and landscaping, and choosing native plants.

China Soaking Up Water With ‘Sponge Cities’

One of the ways China is choosing to attack the problem is with ‘sponge cities,’ which are ‘urban areas with abundant natural areas such as trees, lakes and parks’ that are designed to absorb rain and prevent flooding.

Source: Pixabay

According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), more than 700 million people already live in areas with increasing rainfall extremes. Sponge cities can overcome the threat of flooding, even as temperatures continue to rise.

UK Fighting Back With The Great North Bog

The United Kingdom has an initiative of its own called The Great North Bog—an ambitious, large-scale peatland restoration initiative spearheaded by the North Pennines National Landscape team.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The initiative aims to restore and conserve more than 7,000 kilometers of peatland soils in the Protected Landscapes of northern England, which are responsible for storing 400 million tones of carbon.

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Ryan Handson

Written by Ryan Handson

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