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Salt Marsh Losses on the RiseóMore Protection Needed for Wetlands Nationally

According to a new national report, our nation is losing salt marshes three times faster than previously reported in 2006. The vast majority of this loss is due to relative sea level rise and the effects of coastal storms, highlighting the vulnerability of these valuable habitats. Salt marshes are an important type of coastal wetland. From 1998-2004, wetlands in coastal watersheds (including salt marshes, tidal fresh marshes, mangroves, and other wetland types) were being lost at a rate of about 59,000 acres per year.

According to Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 2004-2009 , the overall trend for all wetlands (salt water and fresh water, inland and coastal) was a loss of about 62,300 acres between 2004 and 2009. Wetland restoration and creation increased by 17 percent since last reported, but at the same time wetland loss increased by 140 percent, resulting in a net loss. The report states “the reasons for this are complex and potentially reflect economic conditions, land use trends, changing wetland regulations and enforcement measures and climatic changes.” With wetland losses outpacing gains by such a wide margin it is clear that wetland restoration alone cannot safeguard our nation’s wetland heritage; we also need to reduce losses by increasing protection of our wetlands.

To learn more, visit the news release or the report—Status and Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 2004-2009. For updated information on wetlands in coastal watersheds, including both salt water and freshwater habitats, look for a NOAA /U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report to be released by early next year.


Posted November 8, 2011