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Coastal Wetlands—Habitat of the MonthCoastal wetlands are areas flooded by water frequently enough to support plants that live in wet soil, including marshes, swamps, mangroves, and shrub depressions.
- Provide spawning grounds, nurseries, shelter, and food for finfish, shellfish, birds, and other wildlife.
- Buffer coastal areas against storm and wave damage.
- Stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion.
- Improve water quality by filtering, storing, and detoxifying residential, agricultural, and urban waste.
What’s the Problem
Coastal wetlands are vulnerable to land development, pollution runoff, and other human activities as well as climate change. The abundance and health of fish and other species are directly related to wetland quality and quantity.
Sadly, we are losing 59,000 acres of coastal wetlands each year in the Eastern United States. That’s equal to 122 football fields a day. If we add a conservative estimate of a 1.5-foot sea level rise due to our warming climate, we could lose even more wetlands—an area equal in size to Pennsylvania.
Why We Care
Without wetlands, our coastal estuaries and the abundant sea life they support wouldn’t exist.
- By buffering our coastal communities from storms, wetlands provide more than $23 billion in annual storm protection services.
- Wetlands are vital to our economy and produce products such as timber, peat, fish, rice, cranberries, blueberries, and hay for livestock. In fact, coastal marshes produce more tons of vegetation per acre than the rich agricultural lands of the Midwest.
- Wetlands have recreational, historical, scientific, and cultural values. More than half of all U.S. adults hunt, fish, birdwatch, or photograph wildlife living in wetlands. Others appreciate wetlands through hiking, boating, and other recreational activities.
We protect wetlands for their essential fish habitat and for storm surge protection. We also restore wetland habitat through both community-based projects and large-scale restoration.
The ecosystem services associated with the corals reefs of Guam are likely to be impacted as a result of the planned relocation of approximately 8,600 Marines, dependents, and support personnel from military bases in Okinawa to Guam. This move will also require the construction of support facilities and a new deep-draft wharf for ships. NOAA has been engaged in consultations with the Navy and other federal partners to identify ways to reduce the impacts to coral habitat due to dredging and wharf construction. Ecosystem services concepts, including the use of Habitat Equivalency Analysis, will be used to help guide this process.