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Image: Brian Bill, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer
A new study has found that half of the nation’s tidal marshes are at risk of being destroyed by sea-level rise, most of them along the southern coasts of the contiguous U.S.
Now, members of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, whose one million residents live along coastal areas stretching from Jacksonville, North Carolina, to Jacksonville, Florida, are fighting to preserve these critical habitats and the cultural value they’ve provided for generations.
Why This Matters: Salt marshes have a reputation as smelly and swampy, but they provide an essential service to our oceans and the greater environment. 75% of regional fish species rely on salt marshes at some point in their lifecycle for food, refuge, and nursing grounds. They’re also valuable as buffers against flooding and act as sponges that soak up floodwaters and filter runoff.
The Gullah/Geechee Nation hopes to protect and restore their salt marshes as well. “The waterways are sacred to us and provide our food. Every native Gullah/Geechee grew up breathing in the smell of pluff mud as we proceeded out to get the family meals of fish, shrimp, oysters, clams, and blue crabs,” said Chieftess and Head of State, Queen Quet. “Saltmarsh is not something that we simply go through or to; it’s part of our family, too. Our lives depend on it.”
A Sinking Feeling: Research from Holmquist et al. found that northerly marshes and southerly marshes differed in vulnerability to sea-level rise. Using tide gauge data, soil formation rates, and local maps of water level, elevation, and land cover, they found that Northern tidal marshes were less likely to migrate inland due to sea-level rise. Meanwhile, southern marshes were less likely to collect and maintain enough soil to keep up with rising tides. Researchers say they hope that these findings can help officials prioritize and plan future conservation efforts.
Queen Quet says that the project is just what the doctor ordered. “The initiative is a perfect fit for the Gullah/Geechee Nation! It suits us like a custom-made garment or a personally crafted vessel that will finally allow us to get other folks to navigate our coast with us in a way that is in harmony with our cultural traditions,” she told Pew Trusts. “I’m looking forward to bringing Gullah/Geechee traditional knowledge into the planning process, but even more than that, I’m looking forward to putting on my hip boots and stepping out into the marsh with my Gullah/Geechee famlee.”
Oysters are the unsung heroes of our oceans and estuaries. A single oyster can filter 50 gallons of water each day, while oyster reefs help protect coastal communities from erosion and storm surges and provide other marine species with habitat. In Pensacola, FL, The Nature Conservancy is leading the effort to place 33 oyster reefs […]
by Amy Lupica, ODP Staff Writer St. Petersburg, Florida, has fallen victim to what could be one of the most prolonged red tides in recent history. Hundreds of tons of dead sea life have washed up on shores as the ecological disaster takes root, and experts say the end isn’t yet in sight. Officials are trying to pinpoint […]
Seaweed could be the next crop sensation, as seaweed farms on the coast of Bali, Indonesia, take root underwater. India-based Sea6 Energy has designed a “sea combine” in the hopes of boosting the now small seaweed market to the forefront of sustainable aquaculture. The innovative catamaran sweeps over fields of seaweed, harvesting and replanting it […]
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