By Shanteya Hudson, Public News Service
North Carolina’s 220,000 acres of salt marsh are in danger of being drowned out or washed away, but groups around the state are banning together to try to stop it from happening.
The South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative has released a new plan to preserve one million acres of salt marshes from North Carolina to East Central Florida, an area nearly the size of the Grand Canyon.
Todd Miller, founder and executive director of the North Carolina Coastal Federation, said the marsh areas provide essential protections the state can’t afford to lose.
“The extensive marshes that we have are really great big sponges that not only improve water quality, in terms of treating runoff from the land, but also provide storage when we have hurricanes and storm surges that help to reduce the impacts of flooding,” Miller explained.
Researchers from Duke University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have estimated North Carolina’s salt marshes hold 64 million tons of carbon dioxide, which helps decrease the effects of global warming.
The new plan outlines dozens of solutions, ranging from securing adjacent lands, so salt marshes can move as seas rise, to elevating new roads above the important wildlife habitat. While such strategies will help for the short term, Miller emphasized it is going to take everyone to make a long-term change.
“The message, I think, is that these strategies buy us time to deal with warming climate,” Miller acknowledged. “But if we don’t do something to slow down global warming, then we’re looking at pretty catastrophic impacts after 2050.”
According to the NOAA, from 14% to 34% of existing salt marshes along the South Atlantic could be lost by 2060 if oceans continue to rise as expected.
This article originally appeared in Public News Service and is republished here under a Creative Commons license