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Coastal, marine, and riverine habitat is among some of the most biologically rich and economically valuable areas on Earth. It provides a range of benefits to our nation by:
- Playing an essential role in the reproduction, growth, and sustainability of commercial and recreational fisheries and protected species by providing shelter, feeding, spawning, and nursery grounds for fish and wildlife to survive.
- Providing recreational opportunities for the publicís use and enjoyment.
- Protecting life and property by helping to buffer coastal communities against natural hazards such as storms, coastal flooding, and sea level rise.
- Supporting the biodiversity on which marine and coastal ecosystems depend.
- Aiding water quality by filtering pollution and sediment from runoff and helping recharge aquifers.
Human activities have significantly altered coastal and marine habitat over time. Valuable habitat continues to be degraded or lost or made inaccessible due to coastal development, land-based pollution, fishing gear impacts, invasive species, dams and other blockages that restrict access for migratory fish species, and reduction in the amount and delivery of freshwater to estuaries. In addition, climate change and the demand for new sources of energy have the potential to cause severe and wide-ranging impacts on habitat.
The degradation and loss of habitat has significant economic, social, and environmental consequences. For example, habitat degradation and loss affects the size and diversity of fish populations, which in turn impacts commercial and recreational fisheries. And given the continuing trend for human populations to concentrate near the coasts, the pressures and potential impacts on coastal and marine habitat will only increase.
Once habitat is damaged or lost it is difficult and costly to recover the benefits and services that it provides. NOAA is urgently working to sustain healthy coastal and marine habitat and the communities and economies that depend on them.